Sunday, March 29, 2020

5th Lent: Lazarus and the Coronavirus

    As I was reading this gospel 3 times  was I surprised by the words of Jesus. The first time was when he said:  “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 
     I believe we can all agree that these are encouraging words in a time like this.  However we can not make the mistake of thinking that these words are a promise that we don’t have to worry about taking precautions, washing our hands and keeping our social distance because Jesus is telling us that if we or anyone we know gets sick, at the end we will all be healed. After all, a few short verses later in the reading we see Jesus crying for his dead friend.
     I think that what the Lord is telling us is that in a time like today, when the news is grim; even when we have to deal with the sickness of a loved one, if we let him, He will find a way to bring glory to his name. All we have to do is trust that even in the grimmest of times He is right there with us, sharing in our sufferings.
    The second time I was surprised by His words was when he said: “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me”. It surprised me because he is giving us a perfect example of how to start every prayer in times like the ones we are living. It is easy to get discouraged when, day after day, after we spend hours pleading with the Lord, we see that our prayers are ignored and that those things we so desperately want are denied by the harsh reality of life.
   It is important we recognize that these words of Jesus are the first words of the Lord when he was asking his father for the impossible, to bring Lazarus back to life. The Lord is giving us an example of how to pray. And that example is this: Pray with the realization that God indeed listens to our prayers. Even if we do not get the results we want, our prayers, every prayer counts. And our desired to be heard by God is always, always fulfilled. He might not answer our prayer but, like a good Father He is ready to console us when He has to deny what we so desperately need.
   And the third time I was surprised by the words of the Lord was when he said: “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?”  Today  the Lord is asking  each one of us: Do you truly believe this?
   We are living in a time in which, because of this pandemic, death can become part of the reality of our lives. In fact we have reached a point that death has become just a number, that keeps going up and up. Anyone could become discouraged by the constant reporting of death in the news, but the Lord IS resurrection and life, if we believe in Him we will never die! Yes, our bodies might decay until it can not continue the battle, but our soul, our essence will continue, united to Him for all eternity.  And eventually we will meet again. Do we believe this? If we do, then there is no fear, no pain, no sickness, no virus that can keep us away from our eternal destiny.
    The coming days and weeks will be challenging to some if not all of us. The time of complacent Christianity is over. The time to pray, to hope and trust in God’s plan is here.
    Lets commend ourselves to the protection of all the angels, the saints, the martyrs and especially the Blessed Mother and lets make our prayer “Yes, I believe, Lord help my unbelief!” GBYMBAS.


Monday, March 9, 2020

2nd Lent: Transfiguration and Corono Virus

  My dear confirmandi, I’m so glad you are here today! When I was working on this homily I was not aware you would be here today. As I finished it and reviewed it, I realized that it did not sound like  my regular sermons. In fact reading it I got a sense that this particular homily had been given to me for a specific person. You might be asking why? Well it is because one of the important points I want to make is that the Jewish people in the times of Jesus, were not much different than you or me. Yes, for them, our world would look more like a magical place than anything we can imagine. Just think about the fact that today, right here I can pull out of my pocket a device which allows me to contact anyone, no matter where they are in the world by just a few keystrokes on a keypad. But the reality is that if we take all the technology away we are left with the realization that the problems of these people from 2000 years ago and your problems are not that different.
    Think about it this way, in the times of Jesus people were scared of contagious diseases like leprosy. To the point that even the suspicion of contact with a leper, would force you into quarantine from the rest of the community. They were under the control of political forces that only cared about their own interests, and not about the lives of those who were less fortunate to the point that the lives of regular people, especially the most vulnerable had very little value. Like you and me they had to get out of bed every morning, to go to work and in their own way make every day of every week count. They lived in fear of the Roman authorities especially on what could happen if one of their children ever had a run in with a Roman soldier or worst the weight of the Roman law.
   I can go on and on but the point I’m trying to make is that as different as their world and our world could be, when it came to what really matters health, security, companionship; their concerns, those things that keep anyone of us up all night, were no different than the problems we face in our own homes and our own lives. 
   This is why today's’ gospel has always been very important for the Christian believer. So important that along with the crucifixion and his resurrection it is the only other episode in Jesus life that is mentioned in the gospels AND in the letters of the apostles. But why? Why is this event so fundamental to Christians from all times and places?
   Quite simply the transfiguration of the Lord is proof that although in life we can be assaulted by the tragedy or disease, by the failure of the political systems to be just and fair, even by the loss or abandonment of loved ones there is a place outside of our regular day to day perceptions in which the Lord Jesus is King, a place in which we can meet him in all of his glory.
   You see the transfiguration was a gift of the Lord to the apostles. Right after this, the Lord began his long way towards Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus wanted to make sure the apostles did not get discouraged by the terrible events of the coming weeks. He wanted to make sure that when things looked at their worst, when the soldiers were torturing him and nailing him to a cross, and the apostles were running away scared to hide from the authorities, they would look back at this moment on time and realize that He had already defeated his enemies and that as beaten and as broken as he looked to those who didn't know him, he was still the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
   The significance of the transfiguration is that it was not an event for just the apostles or the disciples. It was a moment in which all believers could find consolation, whenever they themselves were scared, and confused. This is why Paul in the first reading reminds persecuted Christians of the first century to “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” because of  “the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light”.
  Today we are living in a time not much different than the times of Jesus, the CoronoVirus, the loss of billions of dollars in the stock market, what is starting to look as the most divisive election cycle in memory is making regular people like you and me scared and worried like the disciples in Good Friday. What is the Lord telling us today?  Do not be afraid Jesus has destroyed death and had shone a light from the top of the Transfiguration mountain into the souls of those who believe in him. There is no virus, no future president and no stock market crash that can take that away from us. God bless you my dear confirmandi and my brothers and sisters.