5th Sunday of Lent. April 2, 2017.
Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45
Feeling abandoned by Jesus? Think again.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
I can never forget that Sunday evening after Mass in our parish in Boston. I was a seminarian then and I was locking up the Church after evening Mass when I saw it: A white Communion host on the pew of the Church. Obviously, someone had received Holy Communion during Mass and then somehow left our Eucharistic Savior on the pew and walked away.
It was a painful reminder of how much risk Jesus has taken to become one like us and then to give Himself to us in Holy Communion. Many would reject Him and would not believe in His Real Presence. Many will question His ability to give Himself to us in such humble conditions. Many would stay away from the Eucharist because, in their opinion, they are not getting anything out of the Mass. Many would stay away because they think that they are not worthy to receive Him. Many would receive Him in Communion and then abandon Him in the pew. Many will make sacrilegious Communions and receive Him with little or no repentance for their sins. Our Eucharistic Savior never abandons us and nothing stops Him from coming to give us life.
In today’s Gospel passage, Lazarus’ two sisters seemed to have memorized the same song of lament, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They must have rehearsed and internalized those words at their moment of grief, just waiting to say it to Jesus. It was an endless mantra, a cry that accused Jesus of abandoning them at the moment of their brother’s sickness when they had sent Him a desperate message, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”
Little did they realize that Jesus could never abandon anyone, much lest His friends. If only they realized the great risk that Jesus took to come and visit them at their moment of grief. His disciples thought that He was out of His mind when He spoke about leaving His safe haven in Galilee to return to Judea and risk being stoned to death by the irate Jews. They had responded in disbelieve, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” But nothing will deter Jesus from going to console his friends and to raise His friend Lazarus.
Despite Jesus’ deep love for Lazarus and His knowledge that Lazarus was dying, Jesus had remained where He was for two days because Jesus never does anything to please Himself but to please the Father no matter the pains that it would cause Jesus or others, “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to Him.”(Jn 8:30) This is why Jesus responds to the news of Lazarus’ sickness with these words, “This sickness is not to end in death, but it is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
To stay behind two more days when He had the power to heal Lazarus by a word of His command, to let His friend Lazarus die when He could easily have prevented it, to see Martha and Mary weep at the death of Lazarus when He could have prevented those tears – all these were painful for Jesus and He showed it by His deep tears at the grave of Lazarus, “And Jesus wept.” These are the tears of One who never abandons His own but who gives them life just as the Father wills that He should, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wills.”(Jn 5:21) Jesus assures that He would never abandon His own even in the grave, “I am the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in me, even if He dies, will live.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if Jesus never abandons His friends even in death, He will surely never abandon us who are now children of God because we have the Spirit of God in us. We are more than just friends of Jesus now; we are now children of God like Jesus, co-heirs with Him of His Father’s unfailing love, by the Spirit of adoption that we receive at Baptism.
St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading of the privilege and responsibility of having the Spirit of Jesus in us. First, by possessing the Spirit of God in us, we belong to God as His own children, “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.” Secondly, we are delivered from living “according to the flesh,” seeking always to please ourselves without any regard for the glory of God. Like Jesus, possessing the Spirit, we too can do and endure all things so as to please God and not just to please ourselves, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Lastly, we have the guarantee and divine assurance of future Resurrection i.e. God will not abandon His own people, even in the grave, “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.” We share with Jesus that assurance that, as the Father did not abandon Him in His suffering and death, He will surely never abandon us too in life and in death.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if Christ Jesus will not abandon us, in life and in death, even in the grave, then He will never abandon us even in our sins, trials, and sufferings. We only need to ask ourselves if we are living as God’s children today, seeking to please our loving Father in all that we think, say and do simply because we are His children. Jesus will never abandon us and it is not because of any good that we have done but simply because we have dwelling in us that Spirit that Christ merited for us by His passion, death and Resurrection.
On a practical level, one clear sign that we are living as God’s beloved children is that we are not slaves to fears in this life. Whether it is the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of losing our job, the fear of being abandoned and rejected, the fear of losing our health and strengths, the fear of ridicule, etc., when we live as God’s children by the power of the Holy Spirit, we do not fear anything, not even death, because we know that God will never abandon us, even in death.
Our divine guarantee that we will not be abandoned is renewed and made effective in every Eucharist where Jesus repeatedly pours His Spirit into our souls and assures of His continued abiding presence with us in life and in death. As we face life’s hurts and pains, losses and sorrows, there is no need to lament saying, “Lord, if only you were here.” He is with us always, risking everything just to give us His life even in our pains and moments of darkness. Let us be certain today that if we never abandon Jesus, if we continue to live as God’s own children, seeking to please the Father in all things and not ourselves by the power of His Spirit, Jesus will never abandon us but will surely risk all just to give us life, even from the grave.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!