23 April 2006

Homily - 23 April 2006

In the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross we find the ultimate expression of love, for “no one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). “God, the Father of Mercies,” (Rite of Penance) through the power of the Holy Spirit, raised his only Son from the dead and in so doing displayed for us the ultimate power of love, a love that is stronger than death. Love has conquered. “We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has any power over him,” (Romans 6:9). Even so, the expression of love and the power of love does not stop here, but with Divine Mercy.

After Christ Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples and to the Apostles, he did not reprimand or condemn them for fleeing from his side when he needed them most. He did not vent anger against Peter who thrice denied him. He did not raise his voice against Thomas for his doubt and neither does he do to us when we doubt him and when we sin against him. Through his great mercy, he continually calls each of us – as he did the Apostles - individually and by name and he extends to each of us the fullness of his great love. To each of us he says, “I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

To Saint Faustina Kowalska, Christ the Lord revealed that at the moment of death he offers to each soul the grace of conversion; he extends one final time the opportunity to receive his love, to receive his redemption, to receive his salvation. But, of course, this grace, this love, the soul can either accept or reject, for true love never forces itself upon another.

The Lord Jesus says to Dismas, the repentant thief, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). For God wishes “everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth “(I Timothy 2:4). For this reason Jesus says to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving but believe” (John 20:27). “Believe in the truth,” he says to us. “Believe in me, for ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’” (John 14:6). “Come to me,” and know the fullness of my mercy (Matthew 11:28).

Sometimes we have a tendency not to believe in the mercy of the Lord. We think, maybe, that he is too kind, too generous, too loving to us sinners. We know that we do not deserve his love and so we have a difficult time bringing ourselves to believe he can possibly love us as he says he does. We think, perhaps, that he is tricking us, that there is some clause we have not heard, some small print we have not yet read. But, my friends, he is himself Truth itself. He will never lie to us; he will never deceive us; he will never disappoint us!

His love and his mercy he offers to us, without any strings attached. He only calls us to carry our cross each day with him (cf. Luke 9:23). Do not doubt his love! Out of love for us sinners, the sinless one, Jesus, the only Son of God, seeing us in the wretched state of sin, leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross (Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005). Jesus says to us, “Come, feel my wounds for my mercy is tangible. Come, see the wound in my side from where my love flowed out for you, for my mercy is visible. Come, take shelter within my wounds and let my love and mercy wash over you and surround you and give you peace.”

Some might take this Divine Mercy as an opportunity to “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die” approach to life. But if we reject the love of the Lord in this life, why would we accept it in the life to come?

The Truth stood before Pontius Pilate and he did not recognize the Truth nor did he accept the Truth; instead, Pilate demanded, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). The testimony Pilate heard about Jesus seemed absurd, bizarre, and unbelievable. Rather than believe the Truth about Love, Pilate chose to believe the lies of the Evil One, he chose to believe the falsehoods of this world that promise power, wealth, happiness, and liberty. Pilate failed to see that all of these things only enslave us and make us miserable. Only the Truth, only Love, can free us! And this he has done through his Death and Resurrection; he has made us free!

It seems too good to be true, and yet it is true. Do not doubt his love and his mercy, my friends, for he has written it in his own blood using the nails upon his hands. Stretch out your hands to his. Feel his wounds. See his love. Open yourself to his mercy. St. Anthony of Padua reminds us that

Christ has inscribed us in his hands … for three reasons: (1) to show the scars of the wounds he bore for us to the Father, thus inviting the Father to show us mercy. (2) In order not to forget us. For this reason he says in Isaiah: ‘Can a woman forget her infant, and not have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have written you in my hands’ (Isaiah 49:15-16). (3) He has written in his hands what kind of people we should be and in whom we should believe. ‘Do not be unbelieving,’ O Thomas, O Christian, ‘but believe’ (The First Sunday After Easter).

Let us then, with the father of the possessed boy whom Jesus freed, let us cry out to him, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

“Let us ask, therefore, dearest brothers [and sisters], and humbly entreat the mercy of Jesus Christ, so that he might come and stand in our midst. May he grant us peace, absolve us from our sins, and take away all doubt from our hearts. And may he imprint in our minds faith in his passion and resurrection, so that with the apostles and the faithful of the Church we might merit to receive eternal life. May he grant this, he who is blessed, [praised], and glorious through all ages. Let every faithful soul say: Amen. Alleluia” (St. Anthony of Padua, The First Sunday After Easter).

15 April 2006

Homily - 16 April 2006

The Resurrection of the Lord (B)
Based on the Easter Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

Is anyone here a great lover of God? Let the lovers of God enjoy this beautiful and bright festival, for their love is returned by their Lord!
Is there anyone here who is a grateful servant? Let the grateful servants rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord, for their service is accepted and honored and returned!
Are there any here who are weary from fasting? Let those who have fasted now receive their wages for their hunger is now satisfied.
If any here have worked from the first hour of the day in the vineyard of the Lord, let them receive their due reward; if any here have come after the third hour to work in his vineyard, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! Anybody, who arrived after the sixth hour to work and serve the Lord, do not doubt your payment and reward; for you, too, shall receive your pay. And if any delayed until the ninth hour and have only recently come to know and love the Lord, let the latecomers not hesitate; but let them come, too. And you who arrived only at the eleventh hour and have not yet fully begun to work or serve the Lord, do not be afraid because of your delay, for the Lord is gracious and he receives the last in the same way that he receives the first. He gives rest to those who come upon their deathbed as well as to those who faithfully loved and served from the moment of their Baptism. The Lord Jesus accepts our works in the same way that he greets our endeavor. He honors our deeds and he commends the intention of those who come to him.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! Those who have come first and those who have come last alike – you who worship every week and you who worship only infrequently - receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the Easter fast, and you that have eaten all in sight, rejoice today for the table of the Lord is richly prepared! Feast royally on it for the calf is a fattened one. Let no one go away hungry. Let everyone drink from the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of his goodness!
Let no one grieve his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one grieve that he has sinned time and again because forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has forever set us free.
He has destroyed death by enduring it. He destroyed the power of Hell when he descended into it. He put Hell into an uproar even as it tasted his flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering him below” ().
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it was mocked. It was in an uproar, for Christ the Lord has destroyed it.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell claimed a human body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. “O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?” ().
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen! Alleluia!

Homily - 15 April 2006

At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
Based on an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.”
The tomb of Jesus is empty. We are told, “He has been raised; he is not here” (Mark 16:). “He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory . . . He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’
Jesus says to Adam, “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.” So he says to each of us! He has not created us for slavery but for freedom! He has not created us for death but for life! He has not created us to be servants but friends! Through Baptism and the Holy Eucharist he makes us one with himself and he gives to us a share in his divine life.
To Adam he says, “For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
“See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, firmly nailed to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched your hand out to a tree.
“I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
“Rise. Let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by the cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”
As he says to Adam so he says to each of us, especially to you, Greg, Michael, and Crystal, who are to become one with us and one with the Lord Jesus Christ this most holy and blessed of all nights. Tonight, through the saving waters of Baptism new life is to be given to you.
You, Jared, Mark, Cordell, and Jami, who are already one with us in Baptism, you are soon to be received into the Church of Rome founded by the Savior himself upon the Apostle Peter through your profession of faith. And Charity, your initiation into the Catholic Church will soon be completed as you are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Let us cease now this vigil and this waiting; we have waited long enough; let us begin, for the tomb is empty and the Lord is risen from the dead! Alleluia!

Homily - 14 April 2006

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Today the world is forever changed; nothing shall ever be the same again. Today God has given his life for man, the sinless for the sinners. Today “he was pierced for our offenses” (Isaiah 52:5). Today we experience the ultimate power and mystery of love.

His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ, we can understand … [that] ‘God is love’ (I John 4:8) (Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 12).

What can anyone do before such love? What can anyone say upon seeing the depth of such love? Who would have thought a love of this magnitude could ever be experienced? Love has come to us and today Love died in our place. “Because of him kings shall stand speechless” (Isaiah 52:15). Such is the power of this love.
What adequate response can be given in response to so powerful a love? There are two fundamental reactions and responses to this love: we can either accept this love in all humility, or we can reject this love in all of our pride. The choice is ours but the choice must be made.
Last night Judas willingly took those cursed coins and handed the Savior over to death. It was Judas who went to the chief priests and asked them, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15). Indeed, the chief priests “were pleased and promised to pay him money” (Mark 14:11). It was his own idea to betray the Messiah; he freely sold his Teacher and Master for a few pieces of silver. He saw the power of Jesus’ love as he followed him for three years. He saw how dearly Jesus loved his disciples. At the same time, Judas knew that Jesus loved him as well, but Judas would not return any love at all. He refused to accept the love of the Lord; he completely rejected Love himself. Judas represents the ultimate rejection of the Lord.
To accept this love of the Savior we can follow the example of the three Marys, of Joseph of Arimathea, of Nicodemus. These followers of the Lord did not leave his side. They accompanied Jesus on this most difficult of journeys as he gave his life for us. They opened themselves to experience his love and his love they returned as best they could, even after his death. In love, they served him who died for us, and so should we. The Holy Father encourages us in this love, saying,

We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (II Corinthians 5:14) (Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 35).

We know, also, that although many of us truly do love the Lord Jesus, we do not always follow him and serve him faithfully. We forsake him, we abandon him, and we sin against him. We sinners then can follow the example of Saint Peter who three times denied the Lord and sinned against him. Even so, he powerfully experienced the merciful love of Jesus when “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” and Peter “went out and began to weep bitterly” (Luke 22:61, 62).

As tears fill our eyes as we acknowledge that we, too, have sinned against the Lord, let us gaze upon the crucified Lord who was pierced for us. Let us look up into his face lowered down to look upon us and see there the very face of love. Let us run into his arms so lovingly and gently extended and held out to embrace us. Let us take refuge within his holy and glorious wounds and allow our hearts to be filled with his mercy and love.

Let us look upon the one whose heart was pierced for us and know the fullness of the truth that “God is love.” “Behold the man!” (John 19:6).

Homily - 13 April 2006

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Tonight we gather here in the upper room with the Lord Jesus and his disciples as we prepare to celebrate the great Passover feast. On this night we will be marked with the Blood of the Lamb and his household, the Church, will be saved from death because of his Blood. Tonight, “types and shadows have their ending, for the newer rite is here,” newer rites given us by the Savior himself (St. Thomas Aquinas, Tantum ergo). Christ gives the definitive meaning and power to the celebration of the Passover and never will it need to be repeated again, for with his own Blood he destroys death forever.
When the Lord gathered his disciples together in the Upper Room he knew well what he intended to do. As St. Paul relates to us, Jesus, the Master and Teacher,

took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (I Corinthians 11:23-25).

In this way his own Body replaces the flesh of the Paschal Lamb and his own Blood replaces the blood of the Paschal Lamb spread on the posts and lintels of the houses. It is precisely through his death on the Cross that he gives his Body and Blood for us to eat and to drink; through his death he atones for our sins and washing us clean in his own Blood, making us “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:9). He who is without sin willingly gives his life for us that we, too, might live. “This is love in its most radical form” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 12).
This night Jesus knows that one of his own will betray him and for this reason he says to the Apostles, “Not all of you are clean” (John 13:11). “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father” (John 13:1). The time has come for him to fulfill his mission, to give his life for our redemption and salvation.
In giving us the Eucharist, his very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, before he gives up his life for us, he “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (John 13:2). Through the Holy Eucharist Jesus desires to remain present with us always, but to do so his sacrificial death needs to be perpetuated and made present in every age and in every place “until he comes” again (I Corinthians 11:26). To achieve this end he established the Apostles and some of his disciples as his priests of the New Covenant sealed in his own Blood.
To these, his priests, he says, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15). As Jesus changed the bread and wine of the Passover meal into his very own Body and Blood given for us, so he will do through the ministry of his priests. He commands his priests to perpetuate his sacrifice and to bring his love to every corner of world – to a world mortally wounded by sin - through the sacramental life of the Church.
On this night the Lord Jesus institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist and he institutes his Church to carry out his work of salvation always and everywhere. We know that the Eucharist unites each of us with Christ and that the Eucharist gives us the grace we need to daily follow faithfully in the footsteps of the Lord. In this sense, we can say that the Eucharist makes the Church for it strengthens us, cleanses us of venial sin, and unites us with the Lamb of God.
But at the same time, the Eucharist does not simply fall from heaven as the manna did in the desert. No, the Eucharist is given us through the sacramental ministry of the Church through her priests and bishops. We know that without the sacred ministers, without priests and bishops, we cannot have the Eucharist. In this way we can say that the Church makes the Eucharist.
Here, then, we can combine the two into a truly magnificent marvel of God’s love for us: “The Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.” This is why the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council call the Eucharist the “source and summit” of the Christian life. The Eucharist gives us life and sends us forth, yet at the same time it calls us back to be refreshed and rejuvenated again. We must always return to this great fountain of life. The Eucharist and the priesthood and the life of the Church and of every individual Christian are intimately and inseparably bound together through the power and mystery of Christ’s love displayed for us in the Eucharist.
Here, then, we can begin to understand the power of Jesus’ humility when he washes the feet of his disciples and commands them to do likewise. Remembering this particular aspect of the Last Supper of the Lord calls to mind the centrality of service in the Christian life.
Various elements of service today are often emphasized but rarely are they ever connected with the Eucharist as Jesus clearly does. The Eucharist is, in fact, a call to service and at the same time it is a call that also enables such service. It is a call that ennobles such service. Without the Eucharist, true Christian service - which must always take the form of love of God and love of neighbor - simply is not possible. The Eucharist demands that we love God and our neighbor while at the same the Eucharist gives us the strength and the grace to love as Christ has first loved us.
In his Encyclical Letter, Pope Benedict reflects on this connection between the Eucharist and service. He writes,

in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants. As Saint Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (I Corinthians 10:17). Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christianity. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself…Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God” (Deus caritas est, 14-15).

On this night when we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and of the priesthood, let us beg the Lord to fill each of us with his love, that we might then love others as he has first loved us and so come to love him fully. Through the Eucharist and through the Christian service of love may we come a greater unity with one another and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

03 April 2006

Homily - 2 April 2006 (B)

Today the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presents for us two necessities
of the Christian life that we all too often seek to avoid: obedience and
suffering, saying, “Son though he was, [Jesus] learned obedience from what he
suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal
salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Through suffering, then, we
learn obedience and from obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ we receive
eternal salvation and everlasting life.

We see this reality in what Jesus says to us in the Gospel. Referring to
himself – and to each of us – he says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the
ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces
much fruit” (John 12:24). In order to die the grain of wheat must suffer. Its
shell must be broken and it must break free and struggle through the earth to
reach the light of day. In much the same way, whenever we suffer there is a
certain dying that takes place as we come to accept the reality that our will,
that our desires, are not in control of our lives. There is a greater will than
ours to which we must submit, to which we must be obedient for the Lord
says to us, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also
will my servant be” (John 12:26).

We see this dual necessity – that of suffering and obedience – in the
words of Jeremiah as well. The Lord God announces through his prophet,
“The days are coming … when I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel … I will place my will law within them and write it upon their hearts; I
will be their God and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31; 33). Here
again we see that obedience to the will of God, to his Law – which always
involves a certain suffering – leads to eternal salvation, for as the Lord says, “I
will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

There is an ancient Greek maxim, a proverb, if you will, that says, paqein
maqein, “to suffer is to learn.” But what do we learn in suffering? We learn
to be obedient and in becoming obedient we grow in union for the Crucified
and Risen Lord.

Very few people today like being obedient. Very often obedience is given
a quite negative connotation, almost to the point that some have difficulty
finding any good whatsoever in obedience. It is almost as though all forms of
obedience are likened to nothing more than a “blind obedience,” which in all
actuality is not obedience at all. It is simply a case of “the blind leading the
blind,” of ignorant following.

What, then, is obedience? The English word comes from the Latin
obidere meaning, “to listen, to hear.” Obedience does not so much consist in
following orders and commands simply because they are given as it does in
being attentive and attuned to the will and desires of the Master. For
Christians, obedience means listening so intently to the voice of Christ that we
know his will for us and we see the good that he has in store for us and so we
do desire his will as our own. When one is truly obedient, one does not
question commands because the good in store is evident; there are no
questions to ask because there is no sense of being oppressed or used. We no
longer need to question the purpose of suffering because we come to know
that obedience in suffering leads to salvation, to a sharing in the Paschal
Mystery of Christ the Redeemer.

In the life of Jesus we find the perfect model of obedience to the will of
the Father. In all things he freely followed the divine will, even in suffering.
We know that Christ Jesus,

emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and
found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus knows the great difficulty of uniting our will to that of the Father; he
knows how very hard it is to accept suffering and to embrace it. But it is
precisely “because he himself was tested through what he suffered, [that] he is
able to help those who are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18). He knows the
difficulty we face and he has come to alleviate it, to give us “a model to
follow, so that as [he has] done for [us], [we] should also do” (John 13:15).
Indeed, Jesus says to us, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

In his Encyclical Letter, Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the will of God and
he reminds us:

The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this
communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and
thus our will and God’s will increasingly coincide: God’s will is no longer for
me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the
commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God
is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. Then self-
abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy” [Deus caritas est,

The more that we yield to the will of God, the more that we yield to our
suffering and seek to unite it with the Passion of Christ, the greater our joy
becomes. It is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith.

But when we directly face our suffering we say with Jesus, “I am troubled
now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’) John 12:27).
More often than not we ask the Lord to take our suffering away from us,
forgetting that the Son of God accepted his suffering and invites us to do the
same, saying, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and
take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

In these final days of Lent, then, let us not run from suffering and from
obedience. Let us, rather, take confidence that in obedient suffering new
growth and life will be given us, for as the Lord said to St. Paul, “My grace is
sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:

“Sir, we would like to see Jesus,” the Greeks said to Philip (John ). Jesus then
responds to the Apostles, as if telling them to convey this message to the
Greeks, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John ). The
hour has come for love to triumph over death; the hour has come for the

We do not know if the Greeks ever saw Jesus. I suspect they did see him if
they could accept his message of the grain of wheat and of the Cross; but if
they could not accept it then I suspect they did not see Jesus. It is much the
same with us. May we ask to see the Lord and so accept his message.

Let us follow the example of the Lord and carry our cross together with him
on the road to Calvary. Let us always remember that when we carry our
cross with the Lord Jesus, the name of the Father will be glorified and we will
find our joy.

Homily - 2 April 2006 (A)

Death touches us all. For some, life seems to be a constant encounter with
death; for others, death comes rather infrequently, but either way death never
is easy, nor is it the end.

To experience it changes everything and nothing is ever the same again,
nor should it be, for the experience of death calls to mind our love and that of
others. In the midst of death we very often feel completely alone, isolated,
abandoned and yet surrounded by family and friends. Death leaves us quite
vulnerable and utterly helpless.

A tragic or a sudden death – especially the death of a parent for a young
child and the death of a young child for a parent – is the single greatest misery
and pain that a person can endure. I say this with some authority: the
experience forever changes a person, sometimes for the better and sometimes
for the worse.

The Lord Jesus himself has experienced the agony of death; he knows
well the emotions and the thoughts that we experience in death, because he
himself suffered all of these at the death of his friend, Lazarus.

When at last he arrived at Bethany, Martha and Mary both cried out to
him, “Lord, if you had been my brother would not have died” (John 11:21,
32). Martha seems to address him with a sense of deep faith in his power,
for she then says to him, “[But] even now I know that whatever you ask of
God, God will give you” (John 11:22). Martha has not lost all hope; Mary has.
Seeing the mournful tears of Mary Jesus then “became perturbed and deeply
troubled” (John 11:33).

At this point in the Gospel we find one of those unfortunate instances
where language becomes a difficulty. In Greek, the word we translate as
“perturbed” actually says that Jesus “snorted in spirit.” Jesus is not simply
irritated or frustrated at what death has done to his friends, he is moved to
anger because of what sin has done to his people. He feels our agony and he
sees our powerlessness in the face of death and so, with a certain authority in
his voice, he calmly demands, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34). Here
in the midst of suffering and of death - standing near the tomb - Jesus
acknowledges the very purpose for his coming among us: “I am the
resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

In his anger over the power of sin and its grip upon the human race Jesus

O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring
you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will
put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it
(Ezekiel 37:12-14).

As Jesus looks upon us in his love and as he sees our desperate plight, he is
moved with pity and moved again to anger until at last he calls for his
beloved: “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43).

Yet Jesus does not stop here, for Lazarus has only been restored to life –
he has not shared in the glory of the Resurrection and Lazarus must die
again. Jesus cannot leave us in such a deplorable condition. The anger that he
feels when he looks upon our grief and shares in the agony of death impels
him to turn his gaze anew to Jerusalem. Jesus sees each of us and he knows
that we will suffer a physical death as a consequence of sin. Yet he still says,
“Let us go back to Judea (John 11:7); “Let us go to him” (John 11:15); “Let us
go to Jerusalem.”

The Apostles know the danger of returning to Jerusalem and Thomas
senses something of Jesus’ mission when he says to the others, “Let us also go
to die with him” (John 11:16). Having shared fully in our human experience
Jesus longs to save us and free us from the power of death, but this he must
do on the Cross. Before he heard of Lazarus’ illness, Jesus said, ”This is why
the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (John 10:17-18). Jesus
becomes resolute in his desire to save us and seven days later Jesus enters
Jerusalem to lay down his life so that we might live (see John 12:1, 12).

Before the power of Christ the Lord death has no power. Humanity was
bound to death – was made subject to death – because of sin. When our first
parents sinned against the Lord and chose their own wills over his own, the
Lord God said to them, “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat,
until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dirt,
and to dirt you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Confident in the power of the
love of Christ Jesus, St. Paul mocks death, saying, “Death is swallowed up in
victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I
Corinthians 15:54-55). The love of Christ has conquered death because it has
destroyed the power of sin and broken its hold on us.

By raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus foreshadows the greatness of his
power that will be revealed when on the Last Day he raises all of our mortal
bodies to the glory of the Resurrection. We can be confident that the Lord
will reunite our bodies with our souls and we shall be like him in glory, for “If
the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One
who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit dwelling in you” (Romans 8:11). The Spirit of God certainly
dwells within us through the grace and power of the Sacrament of Baptism; he
has promised and he will do it.

My dear Elect, you have listened to the words of the Redeemer and you
have heard him call to you, “Come out of your sin and live!” You have, with
him, come to detest sin and you long to share in the life that he promises to
those who believe in him. With great joy we look forward to the day when
you will be one with us. But before we bestow upon you the gift of the Spirit
of God and the promise of eternal life, you must first go through this last