Year A 2020
Fr Adrian Farrelly
05 Lent AGF Homily
While some of you may be listening to me with other members of the family at your home, others in their homes but on their own, none are in the church buildings where you usually are to celebrate the liturgy of the Words and Holy Communion.
We do not know who long this state of affairs will last but I suspect longer rather than shorter. What are we to make of the restrictions on the ordinary rhythms of our life? Given that God our Father is always aware of what is happening to us and that Jesus in the Spirit walks with us, what does our faith prompt us to do? Or another approach drawn from the preparation work many of us have done for the Plenary Council is: what is the Spirit saying to us at this time? It reminds a little of Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness which was the gospel proclaimed in the first Sunday of Lent. Jesus spent 6 weeks on his own in no small part depthing his understanding of the words he heard God say at his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist: this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Has the Spirit led us into a time of solitude to ponder our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God, disciples of Jesus, people who know that God is near at all times and tell others that truth.
The last two Sundays and then today the gospel passages have been from St John’s gospel and have been lengthy passages. As we continue our journey to the renewal of our baptismal promises in two weeks time on the day of the resurrection (even though we shan’t be together – celebration of the sacred three days without a congregation will be an unnerving and odd experience. I shall picture you all in my mind’s eye!). As I say, as we journey to the celebration of the three days we are joined with some significant travelling companions from these gospel passages: the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind and today Martha and Mary, the grieving sisters of Lazarus recently deceased.
The passages can be summed up in three words: water, sight and life. Each highlights part of our experience of baptism. We rise from water that can drown us. With the light of faith, we see with new eyes. At the Lord’s call an old life is left behind and we walk from the tombs and graves in which we have placed ourselves.
Jesus was close friends with these three siblings. They sound as if they are all single people. Bethany is just over the top of the mount of olives. The garden of Gethsemane is at the bottom of the mount on the Jerusalem side. Bethany is close to the road travelers took going from Jericho to Jerusalem. For Jesus and his companions, the home would have been a welcoming place to stop and enjoy some refreshments.
Curiously Jesus does not immediately spring into action when he hears Lazarus is seriously ill. In a way he allows the course of the illness to take its course and Lazarus dies. He could have healed Lazarus but did not. He did take action but in his own way. The conversation he has with Martha is the central part of the story especially with his response that he is the resurrection and the life and that those who believe will never die. In saying this, he is not talking about physical death (Lazarus would die again at some time in the future) but about coming alive here and now. As St Paul says: we are alive now because the Spirit of God has made his home in us. This is the fruit of our being baptized.
So this Sunday even though we are cut off from others we are alive with Christ. At his call, we walk from lifelessness brought on by worry. We are in a life-death situation in our society and across the globe but we continue to call people from whatever grave they have put themselves in. Next week we shall gather again in this way and celebrate Palm Sunday. If not restricted as a health risk, I shall leave palms in baskets near the church doors for you to collect at your leisure. Probably mid-week I shall call on each of the churches to do this.
Know that you are always in my prayers. I ask you to include Fr Joe McGeehan and Fr Pat Dowd as both are diagnosed with serious conditions.