Saturday, April 05, 2014

Are You a Modern Day Lazarus?

The Fifth Sunday of Lent offers us the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Chapter 11 of St. John's Gospel details the account of the death of Lazarus, and the mourning of his two sisters, Martha and Mary. I always admire Martha, the hard working lady of the house. Jesus tells her:
"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. Do you believe this?"
Martha replied,
"Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
Martha made a profound statement of faith. Even though she mourned the death of her brother, Lazarus, she clearly and firmly believed in the power of Jesus. When Martha's sister Mary showed up at the tomb, weeping. Stirred by his own strong emotions, Jesus too wept. As the evangelist John wrote: "He became deeply troubled." Jesus went to the tomb. Martha warned him that Lazarus' dead body would be giving off a stench, since it had lain in the tomb for four days. Jesus prayed aloud to the heavenly Father.
"Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd Here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me."
And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,
"Lazarus come out!"
The dead man came out, tied hands and foot with burial bands....So Jesus said to them,
"Untie him and let him go."
Jesus restored Lazarus to his earthly life. Blessed James Alberione affirms that there are people who are "walking dead" or veritable cemeteries, because their souls are starved of grace. Their inner lives are bereft of the light of God because they have refused to accept the call to repentance, to conversion, to true love of God through Jesus. In the Catholic Church we know that Christ forgives all our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or, as we say in everyday language, confession. Sin is cancer of the soul. Jesus is our Healer ready to clear out the wound of sin. He is waiting to tell our soul to "come out of the tomb of sin, of spiritual darkness, of an ego turned in on itself. He tells us to come out of the tomb off brooding over the festering hurts of offenses done to us; or, of sins we have committed and never admitted to God or to ourselves that we were at fault." Lately Pope Francis preached on the need to confess our sins and to receive pardon through the absolution offered in the Sacrament. Before hundreds of people, he himself knelt to confess his sins at one of the many confessionals in St. Peter's Basilica. I pray for all those who have been away for years from the healing power of the confessional. Some of us go face-to-face. If you can't kneel it is more convenient to sit and tell the priest. Sitting, standing, kneeling or on a sick bed, Jesus is ready to tell the Lazarus within us, to the sin within us, to "come out of him", "leave her." As we begin this time closer to Easter, we want to experience our own personal rising from the death of sin, to the new life that only Christ Jesus can give us. In many parishes throughout the USA, there is an effort to make confession more available by offering it on Wednesday evenings. Check your local parish's website to see of they are part of "The Light Is On For You" practice; or, you can check when confession is available. When you are really hungry, you can't wait to bite into a good steak, a hamburger, or a dish of ice cream. You don't wait a month, or a year or more. As we feed our bodies, we need to nourish our souls. Confession or Reconciliation serves as not only a "clean up" service for our souls, but an infusion of grace, the divine energy that only comes from the Holy Spirit. Have a blessed Sunday. There are three titles, each one concise, that can help you prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation: Basic Helps to Confession; Why Go to Confession by Bruno Forte; and for young people: The Sacrament of Reconciliation in My Pocket.
The above titles are available from

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