Sunday, March 26th, 2023 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: Ezequiel 37:12-14, Psalm 130 “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption ”, Romans 8:8-11, John 11:1-45
My dear brothers and sisters, when someone we love dies, we become aware of a large absence in our life. In today’s Gospel we hear how the death of Lazarus leaves a large absence in the lives of those who loved him. By the time Jesus arrives Lazarus is already dead, and Martha voices her regret: if Jesus had been here with them earlier, things would surely have turned out differently. But Jesus’s absence is essential to the story. John tells us at the beginning of his account that through the death of Lazarus the Son of God will be glorified. Just as the blindness of the man in last week’ Gospel served as the occasion to show Jesus as the light, so the death of Lazarus will serve to show Jesus as the life.
Who Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, he will show her that he means now: “I am the resurrection and the life.” So the death of Lazarus does not mean that it is too late for Jesus to be his life. In a loud voice Jesus calls to the dead: “Lazarus, Come out!” The great miracle is that while he is dead Lazarus hears the word of Jesus and obeys it. Hearing the voice of the Son of God, Lazarus lives again. When Lazarus comes forth he is still wearing the clothes of a dead man. He is still enshrouded. Jesus now addresses the community: “Unbind him; let him go free.” In obeying the word of Jesus the community plays its part in helping Lazarus unwind and emerge into the light of his new life.
The story of the raising of Lazarus proclaims the great truth that Jesus is Lord of life. He has power to call us out of our tombs- for the Christian life only begins when we, Ben though we are dead, hear the word of God and obey it. We know from experience that we don’t have to be dead physically to be in need of being raised up. E can be dead in the midst of life- hoping for a word and a community that will put us together again. The voice of Jesus calls us all from making the tomb our natural habitat. It also challenges us to take responsibility for our brother who, like Lazarus, is loved by Jesus. If we see someone buried alive we are invited to do as Jesus and the community do in the Gospel: call them, and help them go free. If we do that as part of our Lenten task, then the resurrection at Easter won’t come as too much of a surprise. May the grace of God be with us, amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD
Sunday, March 19th, 2023 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a, Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is traditionally called Laetare Sunday from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her”. This Sunday speaks to us of joy, because as we journey to the Calvary with Jesus this Lent, we are reminded that the moment of our redemption is coming closer. Joy has a spiritual origin, arising from a heart that loves and feels itself loved by God. Today, rose-colored vestments are permitted in place of purple. In this way the church reminds us that joy is perfectly compatible with mortification and pain. It is sinless and not penance which is opposed to happiness.
In the first reading, the prophet Samuel was sent by God to Jesse to anoint one of his eight sons as the future King. As Samuel arrives, Jesse presents seven of his sons to the prophet. It did not occur to him that his youngest son might be the chosen one. Samuel in a similar way was impressed by the eldest son and seeing his great height thought he would be God’s choice. But he was wrong. They forgot that “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” The Lord saw in David something more than meets the eye. And as Christian, St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “we walk by faith and not by sight”.
In the gospel, Jesus saw the need of the man born blind; that he wanted to be healed. The irony of the story is that the man born blind recognized Jesus as the messiah while the religious leaders failed to see. But this man’s journey to recovery of sight is of great importance to us. Jesus made clay with his saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”. Jesus demonstrated his love for this man by healing him. He united deed and a word-command, but leaving it to the blind man to make the final decision to obey his word. Jesus’ action and word would remain unfruitful if this man would refuse to go and wash. He obeyed the command and his sight was restored. Instead of his healing arousing in the heart his parents, neighbors and the religious leaders joy and rejoicing; it causes interrogation, separation, division, rejection, anger, and fear. Why, because they refused to see the miracle and the person who healed him. Bless us Lord that we may see! In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy spirit, Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, March 12th, 2023 – Third Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: Exodus 17:3-7, Psalm 95 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”, Romans 5:1- 2, 5-8, John 4:5-42
My dear brothers and sisters, we enter into the third week of Lent. Last week, we participated in our Lenten retreats with the theme “From the Cross to the Light”. As we look at the light, we are filled with hope. There is a type of hope that can help us momentarily and give us motivation to keep going. However, this hope runs out the moment we stop thinking about it. This type of situation is what the people of Israel experienced in the desert. Of course, the natural need for food naturally leads us to seek the means to achieve and satisfy hunger and thirst. But the message that the book of Exodus wants to communicate to us is deeper: complete trust in God. This confidence is different from the one we were referring to up to now; we can call it with the same name, hope, but the origin is God.
This hope is what we know best as a theological virtue; that is, it is a gift from God. The essential difference between the virtue of hope and the hope that we can manufacture is that we receive the former from God through grace. The second ends the moment we put it aside. Although the first, the hope of God, we can also deny it and we will become blind to it. It is in these moments that we begin to lose our entire trust in God and we can even tempt God, as the people of Israel did.
Our response should be like that of the woman at the well. Jesus waits for us at the well, even in the heat of midday, to draw us closer to Him. Just as the people of Israel approached Moses to ask for water, so we put ourselves at the feet of the Samaritan woman and approached the well with Jesus.
Hope is possible by the grace of God: the hope that He gives us, which is a firm confidence that God fulfills the promise of eternal life. All this comes from living water that becomes a spring capable of giving eternal life. This is God's hope. The firm conviction in eternal life for the gift we have received. This is our faith. And so we are invited to share that spring of charity with our neighbor today.
In this third week of Lent I would like to invite you to reflect on these as questions: ·
1.What hopes have I created that do not bring me satisfaction?
2.What moments remind me of experiencing the living water that Jesus Christ offers me?
3. And, with this information, what do I want to say to Jesus in my prayer today? May the grace of God be with you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.