Homily for April 6

Image by Karl Isakson

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

My father died in 1975.
About two years after that, I was home from the parish on my days off,
sitting at the kitchen table with my mother
and we were talking about my father.
I asked her a question I realized was foolish
even as the words were coming out of my mouth.
I asked, “Mom, do you miss dad?”
She told me that though she was grateful
his struggle with cancer had ended and that he was at peace,
she did indeed miss him very, very much.
I remember her saying,
 “I know he’s gone and I’ve accepted that.
But sometimes when I’m sitting here alone
I look out this window and I wish that just one more time
I’d see his car come down the street and pull into our drive way
and that he’d get out and come into the house
and give me a kiss and we’d have a cup of tea together and talk.
Oh, how I’d love to have just one  more cup of tea with him…”

I’m sure that many of us, on many occasions,
have felt just as my mother did when missing a loved one we’ve lost.
I’m sure that’s how Martha and Mary were feeling, too.
And it had been only 4 days since they lost their brother.

Martha and Mary didn’t ask for one more cup of tea with Lazarus
but we all know what was in their hearts when they said,
 “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.
But even now we know whatever you ask of God,
God will give you…”

Through Jesus,
God gave Martha and Mary much more than a cup of tea.
Jesus brought Lazarus back to life,
returning him to the embrace of his loved ones.
And Jesus did this not just because Martha and Mary and Lazarus
were close friends of his.
He did this to reveal himself as the Messiah,
to declare that he IS the resurrection, he IS the life.

He raised up Lazarus as a sign:
a sign for us that he would raise up all who believe in him;
that all who believe in him, even if they die, will live;
and that those who live and believe in him,
day by day, week by week, year by year.
will share in his life forever.

And Jesus did this, faithful Jew that he was, he did this:
just before going up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover,
just before entering the city to shouts of Hosanna
and palm branches laid in his path,
just before his Last Supper,
just before he was arrested and sentenced
and mocked and tortured and put to death on the Cross.

All this…  just before he rose from the dead on Easter…

Jesus raised Lazarus who one day, died again
but Jesus promises to raise up forever
all those who live and believe in him,
day by day, week by week, year by year.

There’s a prayer just at the end of our funeral rite
that sums this up so beautifully – here’s how it reads:
Trusting in God, we have prayed together for our brother
and now we come to the last farewell.
There is sadness in parting, but we take comfort in the hope
that one day we shall see our brother again  and enjoy his friendship.
Although we may leave here in sorrow,
the mercy of God will gather us together again
in the joy of his kingdom.
So let us console one another in our faith in Christ Jesus.

Along with my mother, and with Martha and Mary,
and with Jesus himself who wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus,
we all long for more than a cup of tea,
we long for the friendship and affection,
the presence of the loved ones we’ve lost.

And it’s precisely that which Jesus promises
to those who believe in him and who live in him,
day by day, week by week, year by year.

It’s precisely for that reunion that we pray at a funeral Mass.
And it’s precisely that life forever with the risen Jesus
that you and I will celebrate in two weeks at Easter.

My mother wished for a cup of tea with my dad at her kitchen table.
But there’s another table, the altar before us,
where we are in communion with the Lord, with one another,
and with those who have gone before us
marked with the sign of faith.

At this table we celebrate the Supper Christ left us
on the night before he died
and we remember the sacrifice he offered for us on the Cross.
The Eucharist is a taste and a sip
of the life that is ours in Christ
who is the resurrection, who is the life.

In these last two weeks of Lent,  let’s go up to Jerusalem with Jesus
where pain and suffering, and death and loss
all lead us to the gift of life that’s ours in Christ,
the gift of life that has no end.


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