HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Bishop Rene Henry Gracida
By your help,
we beseech you
Lord our God,may we walk eagerly in
that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
forever and ever.
Today’s Gospel has a special meaning for me because on Tuesday of this past week
one of my nephews died of brain cancer after a heroic battle against the malignant cancer for the last three months.
During that long struggle he was a model patient: loving, suffering, frequently smiling and always ready to amuse you with one of his atrocious puns.
John was not the only person to die on Tuesday.
Twelve members of a Baptist church in San Antonio were killed when a pickup truck inexplicably hit their mimi-bus head on.
Realizing the fragility of our own mortality today’s gospel narrative about the raising of Lazarus from the dead should help us reappraise our own mortality in relation to what awaits each of us after our own death.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the seventh miracle revealed in the Gospel of Saint John.
Here are the eight miracles or signs that Jesus Christ worked:
All eight miracles or signs were worked by Jesus Christ so that those who witnessed the miracles, especially his disciples and apostles, and those who would later learn of them, that is you and me, might believe in him and have faith in his Gospel promise of redemption from sin and eternal life.
Pity poor Lazarus!In order for him to participate in his being raised from the dead for our sake, he had to die TWICE !!! We only have to experience the passage from life in this world to life eternal once.
But it would not be possible for us to make that passage successfully if it were not for the 8th sign or miracle narrated by Saint John: the death of Jesus Christ !!!
Of the 8 miracles or signs that Jesus worked so that we might have faith in him and in his Gospel three dealt directly with death. Lets look at each of the eight.
The first miracle was the changing of water into wine at Cana.
The second miracle was the restoration to full life of the son of the official.
Here is Saint John’s narrative:
“…at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When (the official) heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, (the official) went and begged (Jesus) to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
Jesus therefore said to (the official), ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’
The official said to (Jesus), ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’
Jesus said to (the official), ‘Go; your son will live.’
(The official) believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. As (the official) was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. So (the official) asked them the hour when (the son) began to mend, and they said to (the official), ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ (The official) knew that that was the hour when Jesus said to him, ‘Your son will live’; and (the official) himself believed, and all his household.”
The third miracle or sign was the healing of the crippled man.
The fourth miracle or sign was Jesus feeding of the multitude.
The fifth miracle or sign was Jesus walking on water.
The sixth miracle or sign was Jesus healing the man born blind.
The seventh miracle or sign was the raising of Lazarus from the dead
And the 8th miracle or sign was the greatest of them all: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ himself.
Recall the words Jesus spoke to the official from Capernaum:
“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
Recall also the words Jesus spoke to Martha, the sister of Lazarus:
“Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
And St. John’s commentary:
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what (Jesus) did, believed in him.”
The old idiom “Seeing is believing” means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing” can work in most cases (it worked in the case of the Apostle Thomas who doubted that the Lord had risen from the dead until he touched Jesus) can easily
lead to a sophistry which is that “seen evidence” can always be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation of visual evidence is sometimes very difficult.
For this reason the Church every year during the entire season of Lent, but especially during Holy Week gives us, through the Liturgy, the opportunity to renew and refresh our faith in Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
guide us with your love and grace as we progress through these final days of Lent.
Grant that through our reflection on the passion, death and resurrection of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,
we may experience an increase in our understanding that he underwent such a terrible passion and death out of love for us and reciprocate that love by a commitment to reform our lives and live according to his Gospel.
This we ask through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.