Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent
Fr. David Martin
We are living in ‘deafening times’. During the day, without the usual traffic on our roads, without voice in our streets, seemly without energy… silence has become very powerful. Silence certainly has a positive role in our lives, for prayer and reflection, to absorb and to learn. However, when it is unwelcome, we want to ignore it, or cover it up and sometimes purposely snuff it out with music or unnecessary talk. Both Simon and Garfunkel were on to something with their great hit, “The Sound of Silence,” written so many years ago. In my own life, I have found that silence allows me to hear the so-called ‘nothingness’ around me. The chirping birds that sit and wait for me to fill their feeder. The soft gurgle of my hot-water heating system, the geese flying overhead, the creaks and groans of this old house; the distance bark of a dog looking for companionship and the presence of the Risen One with me.
And yet, it is the same silence that has brought us challenges to our lives in the form of Covid 19 (one of our younger companions called it “coroteen”), a term that was unheard of a few months ago. We all know that our world has suddenly changed, because of this new disease and we are all suffering from whiplash. This disease has caused us to stop, literally, to stay home, to self isolate, distance ourselves from each other in order to protect ourselves. No more social gatherings, nor person to person conversation (6 ft only)… to pick up groceries is seen as a risk.
And yet, most of us have experienced this silence before. Waiting for unsettling news; the sudden drive to hospital because of illness; the struggling student wondering if they will pass or graduate this year; or those on the front lines, cashiers, janitors, medical personnel and first responders wondering, “am I totally protected?” The sound of silence can be defening.
With this in mind, 3 things are happening in our beautiful gospel for today: Life, death and resurrection. This story is certainly a foretaste of what Jesus himself will experience and yet this is our story as well. Today we hear of a family and a community is grieving the death of Lazarus. Jesus receives word that his good friend is sick and yet waits a couple of days before he goes to him. Why? Was their a deadly virus circulating? Was Lazarus quarantined? Were people encouraged to practice physical distancing like today? Perhaps. And yet Jesus tells them, “this illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus is trying to show them that faith and hope, always glorifies God… no matter what! We can well imagine the walk to Bethany is sombre and silent. The followers of Jesus are probably thinking, ‘we should have gone earlier…’ and ‘this is not going to be good’ ‘we really missed the boat on this one. And yet, where was their hope and their trust? Regardless, Jesus knows in his heart that Lazarus is dead, and he knows that resurrection will happen. When Jesus and his follower finally arrive, they encounter mayhem. People are upset and in mourning. Not to mention the family of Lazarus who are disappointed in Jesus for not being there… the one who could have done something! Jesus speaks with Martha, Lazarus’ sister and says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, will never die.” There it is! We come from God, given free choice to believe and when we do, despite physical death… we will never die! This is our creed… this is what we as baptized Christians believe in. And to prove this, Jesus raises his friend from the dead. Lazarus was resurrected. Jesus called him from his tomb.
In these days of silence, of upheaval, of life, death and resurrection, we, too, are called forth from our tombs. The tomb of fear, the tomb of the unknowing, the tomb of anger of what is happening around us. And it calls us to experience ‘resurrection.’ in new ways. Yes, we cannot gather physically as a worshipping community right now. However, if go back to the gospel of Matthew given on “Ash Wednesday,” we are reminded “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to God in secret…and God will see this…” Resurrection seen in how we are ‘church’ to one another; resurrection in our goodness and kindness to others. Again, Matthew’s Gospel from Ash Wednesday tells us, “…when you give alms, do not let your right hand know what you are doing, so that your alms may be seen by God… in secret.”
For sure, we are living in unprecedented times… the likes that we have never experienced before. Despite our current ongoing challenges, Resurrection is always ongoing in our silence, our prayer and our goodness. And that Resurrection changes everything. Let us not lose hope nor trust, knowing that the day will come when we will gather again and pray our gratitude and sing our “Alleluia’s” giving thanks for new hope, new church and new life. May we take comfort in those powerful words that Jesus shared with Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life. Whoever believes in me, will live forever.”