Lent V[A] Sunday (March 26) Eight-minute homily in one page
Introduction: Death with hope in resurrection, challenging us to be alive and not spiritually dead by mortal sin, is the central theme today. Jesus challenges us to live in loving relationship with him every day, so that he may raise us up at our death to inherit eternal life with him.
Scripture lessons summarized: Reporting his vision in the first reading, Ezekiel bears witness to the reanimation of the dead Israel in preparation for the return of the exiles to the Promised Land. He assures them that God’s life-giving Breath will restore them, His people, will give them new life, and will resettle them in their land. St. Paul, in the second reading, assures the early Roman Christians who were facing death by persecution, and us, surrounded by a culture of death, that the same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead and Who dwells within us, will raise our mortal bodies to life on the Last Day. Paul considers the Resurrection of Jesus the basis for our Hope of sharing in Jesus’ Resurrection. For John, in today’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus, the sixth sign that he is the Deliverer, is a symbolic narrative of his Final Victory over death at the cost of his human life, and a sign anticipating his Resurrection. Describing this great miracle, the Church assures us that we, too, will be raised into eternal life after our battle with sin and death in this world. Thus, Resurrection Hope is the central theme of the Scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent. The readings assure us that our Faith in Jesus, who is “the Resurrection and the Life,” promises our participation in his Resurrection and new life.
Life messages: #1: “Roll away the stone, unbind him and let him go.” We often bind ourselves with chains of addiction to alcohol, drugs, sexual deviations, slander, gossip, envy, prejudice, hatred, and uncontrollable anger, and bury ourselves in the tombs of despair. Sometimes we are in the tomb of selfishness, filled with negative feelings, like worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt. If we want Jesus to visit our dark dungeons of sin, despair, and unhappiness, we need to ask him during this Holy Mass to bring the light and the power of the Holy Spirit into our private lives and liberate us from our tombs. Are there times when we refuse to let God enter into our wallets, fearing that faithful tithing will endanger our savings? When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus will call our name and command, “Come out, Mary”,” “Come out, Joe!” This is Good News for all of us: “Lazarus, come out!” This can be the beginning of a new life.
2) We need to be ready to welcome death any time. We live in a world that is filled with death. We kill each other in acts of murder, abortion, euthanasia, execution, war, and terrorist activities. We kill ourselves through suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, overwork, stress, bad eating habits, and physical neglect. The most important question is: am I ready to face my death? All of us know that we will surely die, but each of us foolishly thinks that he or she will not die any time in the near future. Let us be wise, well-prepared and ever ready to meet our Lord with a clear conscience when the time comes and to give Him a clean account of our lives. L/23
LENT V [A] SUNDAY (March 26): Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45
Homily starter anecdotes: #1: A sign of resurrection: As Vice President, George H.W. Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev (November, 1982). Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed in Communist Russia: she made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. — There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all made a gesture suggesting that her husband had been wrong. She hoped that there was another way of life – a life best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that this same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband and raise him up on the Day of the Judgment. In today’s Gospel, Martha expresses her Faith in Jesus’ assurance that her brother would rise. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
#2) Carrying a dead soul in a living body? In Virgil, there is an account of an ancient king, who was so unnaturally cruel in his punishments that he used to chain a dead man to a living criminal. It was impossible for the poor wretch to separate himself from his disgusting burden. The carcass was bound fast to his body — its hands to his hands; its face to his face; the entire dead body to his living body. Then he was put into a dungeon to die suffocated by the foul emissions of the stinking dead body. Many suppose that it was in reference to this that Paul cried out: “O wretched man that I am!” — Today’s readings invite us to turn away from sin, approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation and restore the Life of God to the spiritually dead soul we are carrying within our body, thus becoming eligible for the glorious resurrection Jesus promised to believers at the tomb of Lazarus. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3) “Mike, come out!” “Joe, come out!” Dr. A. L. Jenkins was an emergency-room doctor for 48 years in Knoxville, Tennessee. In this capacity, Dr. Jenkins saw the best and the worst side of the field of medicine. But his most vivid memories are of those moments that are medically unexplainable. Dr. Jenkins recalls one man who was dead on arrival in the emergency room. It was Dr. Jenkins’ policy to attempt resuscitation anyway. After fifteen minutes of CPR, the previously dead man began to show signs of life. The man sat up, looked around him, then said to Dr. Jenkins, “Oh, I wish I was still out there! It was beautiful!” The man would never explain what he meant but would only repeat that the place he had been was “so beautiful, so beautiful.” (Kristi L. Nelson, “From near-death to dynamite,” The Knoxville News-Sentinel, date unknown). — Now, many explanations have been given for so-called near-death experiences, including chemical changes in the brain. But, all explanations aside, it is amazing how these experiences affirm what the Bible teaches us about life beyond the grave. There will come a time when the doctor can do no more for us, but somewhere on the other side, Christ will say, “Mike, come out!” “Joe, come out!” “Sally, come out!” This is a story that affirms resurrection.(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: Resurrection Hope is the central theme of the Scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent. We can see the progression in themes from the thirst for living water (on the Third Sunday of Lent), through the desire to be healed of our spiritual blindness (Fourth Sunday) to our ultimate desire to share in eternal life with the risen Lord (Fifth Sunday).
Scripture lessons summarized: Death and resurrection are the themes that permeate today’s Scripture lessons. The Psalmist (Responsorial Psalm, Ps 130), singing, “I trust in the Lord, my soul trusts in His word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,” awaits Yahweh’s redemption both for himself and for Israel. Reporting his vision in the first reading, Ezekiel bears witness to the reanimation of the dead Israel in preparation for the return of the exiles to the Promised Land. Through Ezekiel, the Lord God guarantees His chosen People that He will one day bring them back to live in the freedom of the Promised Land, that not even their death will stop Him from carrying out this promise. Yahweh states, “I will open your graves, have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” St. Paul, in the second reading, assures the early Roman Christians, who were facing death by persecution (and us, surrounded by a culture of death), that the same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead and Who dwells within us will raise our mortal bodies to Life on the Last Day. Paul considers the Resurrection of Jesus as a reality, the ground of our Faith and the basis for our Hope of sharing in Jesus’ Resurrection. For John, in today’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus, the sixth sign that he is the Deliverer, is a symbolic narrative of Jesus’ victory over death at the cost of his own human life, and a sign anticipating his Resurrection. Describing this great miracle, the Church assures us that we, too, will be raised into eternal life after our battle with sin and death in this world. Thus, Resurrection Hope is the central theme of the Scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent. The readings assure us that our Faith in Jesus, who is “the Resurrection and the Life,” promises our participation in Resurrection and new life.
The first reading: (Ez 37:12-14) explained: The haunting vision of the valley of dry bones described by Ezekiel (37:1-11), forms the background for today’s first reading. The imagery may well have come from an actual battle site, probably that of the battlefield after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in 586 BC. After a few years, the Babylonian soldiers uprooted many of God’s people and dragged them into slavery in Babylon, some 750 miles east of their homeland. This was the beginning of the period known as the Babylonian Captivity, or simply the Exile. Ezekiel was a priest of the Temple of Jerusalem up to 597 B.C., when he was deported to Babylon with King Jehoiachin and the first deportees. In his vision, the release of the Jews from the captivity and slavery of Babylon is described as a rising from their graves to return to a new life in their own homeland. Through the prophet, God assures the exiles that they will live again. They will be raised from death and filled with life. They will experience new life, life that springs from God’s own Spirit. The prophet urges his devastated nation to look beyond that catastrophe to a future that vindicates God’s justice and promises the restoration of the nation through the Spirit of God.
The second reading: Rom 8:8-11 explained: In the second reading, St. Paul reassures the Romans of a future resurrection to a life of unending glory for all those who during their time on earth have been loyal to God and His Son Jesus. This coming resurrection has been won for us by the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Paul advises the Roman Christians, and us, to allow the Holy Spirit who dwells within each person to renew and sanctify them/us, thus making them/us eligible for resurrection. “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.” This indwelling Spirit of God, whom we have received in Baptism, will release us from the “grave” of the flesh and allow us to live the life of the Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is a life of intimacy with God. In this passage, Paul stresses the empowering action of God the Father, Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Gospel exegesis: Picture of death and resurrection: The five Sundays of Lent, combined, give the picture of death and resurrection in faith and in life. 1) The first two Sundays depict Jesus’ own death and Resurrection in daily life: Temptation/Desert/Rejection and Transfiguration/ Mountain/ Belovedness. 2) Then we have three Sundays with three scenarios of death and resurrection:
a) The Samaritan woman at the well (sociological death to become the first missionary) >>her Faith in Jesus >> her missionary approach to the people of her town. b) The Man Born Blind (Physical and spiritual death to growth in Faith >> he recognizes Jesus, the man >>Jesus the prophet >>finally Jesus the Lord è daring missionary to proclaim the healing and the Lord despite threats of ostracism)>> his Faith. c). Lazarus – (Physical death to actual revivification >> beloved to Mary and Martha and to Jesus >> their Faith. d.) Passion Sunday: Moving from another “mount” (donkey) >>to “Crucify him”! Life is a constant journey from Baptism to the desert to the Transfiguration to simple realities of our daily life and mission with occasional anniversaries and jubilees. (Quoted by Fr. Kayala). This is the longest single narrative/story in the four Gospels – 45 verses. This story marks a key turning-point in John’s Gospel: not only is it the last and greatest “sign” Jesus will perform, concluding the “Book of Signs,” but it is effectively Jesus’ last public appearance before His Passion and death.
Resurrection or reanimation? Traditionally, we have often referred to what happened to Lazarus as a “resurrection,” but we need to ask ourselves if that description is really accurate. It is perhaps more accurate to speak of this chapter in terms of the “reanimation” of Lazarus, or his “revivification” or “being brought back to life” – because we believe that true Resurrection is a very particular category which no one except Jesus will experience before the end of time. The Gospels describe two other “reanimation of life” given by Jesus: first to the dead daughter of Jairus (Mk 5 : 22-43, Lk 8: 41-56, Mt 9: 18-26) and to the widow’s son being taken to the place of burial (Luke 7: 11-`17). Each of these people later died, but Jesus will die no more, nor will we when we finally share in His Resurrection. At the end of the world.
Jesus in our culture of death: We live in a world that has been caught up in death for a long time. We kill each other in acts of murder, abortion, euthanasia, execution, war, terrorist activities, and drunken, reckless driving. We kill ourselves through suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, overwork, stress, bad eating habits, and physical neglect. We watch calmly as others die from poverty, hunger and malnutrition, homelessness, unemployment, poor education, disease, lack of health coverage, child abuse, human trafficking, arms proliferation, discrimination, pollution, destruction of the environment, unsafe working conditions, and all the laws, policies, practices and attitudes which contribute to these conditions. (Gerald Darring). “The right to life … is basic and inalienable. It is grievously violated in our day by abortion and euthanasia, by widespread torture, by acts of violence against innocent parties, and by the scourge of war. The arms race is an insanity which burdens the world and creates the conditions for even more massive destruction of life.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 1974). Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the God who will put His spirit in you that you may live. Our Lenten celebration must serve to remind us that the Paschal Mystery represents a victory over death.
The motives behind the miracle: According to John, the raising of Lazarus is the sixth of seven signs and it is the climactic culmination of Jesus’ public ministry. In addition to revealing Jesus as the Lord of life, the Lazarus story presents Jesus as the one whose ministry fulfilled the servant prophecies like Isaiah 42:7, 49:9, and Psalm 16:1-11. It is the longest single narrative/story in the four Gospels, covering 45 verses. It is also Jesus’ last public appearance before His Passion and death. In addition, it is the last and greatest of the miracles worked by our Lord to demonstrate that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, and that through Faith in Jesus believers will receive eternal life. In other words, Jesus wanted to make this miracle, the last recorded, a convincing demonstration that he is what he claims to be — the Messiah, sent by God to give new life, eternal life, to mankind. As this miracle took place a few miles from Jerusalem, Jesus also knew it would give his enemies the impulse and motivation to carry out his condemnation death by crucifixion, which was the “debt” he, “the suffering servant” of God, was to pay for the sins of mankind. Jesus explains the “why” of this miracle as, “It is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” First, when Jesus brings Lazarus back to life, people will give God glory for the miracle. Second, in this Gospel, Jesus’ glorification involves the cross, and verses 45-53 make it clear that Lazarus’ raising will lead to Jesus’ death and Resurrection. This is another way of saying that Jesus’ death on the cross will lead to his glorification. This miracle story, taking place as Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem, prepares us for his death and Resurrection. The story is presented in five distinct, self-contained scenes: Jesus receiving the news of Lazarus’ death, the disciples’ protesting Jesus’ return to Judea, Martha’s pleading with Jesus, Mary’s arrival as Jesus stands waiting in the road, and the miraculous raising of Lazarus.
The moving story of sorrow and Faith: John’s Gospel begins with a wedding and closes with a funeral. There are four primary characters in this story: Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, siblings, were good friends of Jesus. John tells us that he “loved” them. The funeral rituals of Jesus’ day were obviously different from ours, though very like those practiced by Orthodox Jews even today. When somebody died, there was no embalming. Instead, the body was wrapped in linen and, before sunset on the day of death, was put into the burial vault — a cave carved into limestone rock – often with myrrh, frankincense and perfumes. (There is some later evidence (early 3rd century) of a rabbinic belief that the soul hovered near the body of the deceased for three days). Then there was intense mourning for seven days followed by a less intense mourning period of twenty-three days. Lazarus’ sisters had sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was ill and perhaps would soon die. On receiving the message, Jesus waited two days so that the will of God might be demonstrated, and God be glorified by His Son, through a major miracle. At last, Jesus went to the house of Lazarus, knowing very well that his friend had died. On his arrival, Jesus comforted Martha with one of the most treasured of his teachings, which brings great consolation at funeral service, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus offers “eternal life,” which begins with Faith now and lasts forever in its fullness. Then Jesus asked one of the most important questions found in the Bible, “Do you believe this, Martha?” Martha answered, “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Martha pronounced her confession of Faith as a response to Jesus who had revealed himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Her Faith did not depend upon seeing her brother raised from the dead. Proof begets knowledge and confirms Faith; Faith does not rest on proof but precedes it. As John writes this story for his persecuted early Christian community, Martha represents that grieving community in asking the perennial question: “If Jesus gave us eternal life, why are believers still dying?” John’s story offers a challenging response and offers us all those words that bring such consolation at funeral services: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me even if he [or she] dies will live, and everyone who believes in me will never die.”
The supporting community and the reassuring Jesus. Martha returned home and told her sister Mary that Jesus wanted to talk with her. Mary went immediately, surrounded by grieving friends, to find Jesus. Then comes that classic line, the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept.” The Greek translation literally means that Jesus “burst into tears.” This showed that he was not only the Son of God, but also the Son of Man, fully human, sharing our grief and our sorrow and comforting us with his declaration, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Mary’s friends who grieved with her are the model of a supporting Church community. There is something therapeutic about having friends around us when we are grief-stricken. Hence, the Church must be a community offering compassion and consolation to one another. Often, in our busy and active culture, we don’t have time to live deeply with our feelings and to share deep love or deep sorrow.
The touch of human sentiments: While the miracle of raising Lazarus from grave shows Jesus’ Divine power over death itself it also shows him as a wonderfully sensitive human being. His love for Lazarus and his sisters is palpable. Martha’s and Mary’s complaint that Jesus’ presence would have averted Lazarus’ death shows us how real their friendship was. So do Jesus’ tears. The story also represents the best of that special human quality in Jesus of openly expressing real feelings. This interpretive description of Jesus’ greatest miracle is also John’s reflection on the significance of the Resurrection.
Immortality and resurrection: Immortality and resurrection are quite different. “Immortality” tells us that life goes on but “Resurrection” tells us that life is transformed. Today’s liturgy calls us to meditate on life, immortality, and resurrection. Ezekiel speaks of the resurrection of Israel through the infusion of the Spirit. St. Paul tells us that the Spirit of God that raised Jesus will also raise us to new life. The raising of Lazarus is not only a great miracle ; it is a symbol of that deeper awakening to the fullness of Life that comes with Christian Faith. This transformation is the work of the same Spirit who raised Jesus to the new life of resurrection. That Spirit is already at work in us through Faith and Baptism. Our transformation, which will be completed at our resurrection, has already begun. The Spirit enables us to share in the risen life of Jesus and moves us to live that new life through acts of love, patient endurance, generosity, and self-control.
Life Messages: #1: “Roll away the stone, unbind him and let him go.” There are so many dark areas in our private lives. We often bind ourselves with chains of addiction to alcohol, drugs, sexual deviations, slander, gossip, envy, prejudices, hatred, and uncontrollable anger, and we bury ourselves in the tombs of despair. Sometimes we are buried in the tomb of selfishness, filled with negative feelings such as worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt. Jesus asks us today to seek his help and that of the community around us to loosen those chains and come out of tombs of our own creation. Is there an area of life where hope is gone? Why not invite Jesus to visit this area? If we want Jesus to visit our dark dungeons of sin, despair, and unhappiness, let us ask him during this Holy Mass to bring the light and the power of the Holy Spirit into our private lives and liberate us from our tombs. Are there times when we refuse to let God enter into our wallets, fearing that faithful tithing will endanger our savings? When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus will call our name and command, “Come out!” Jesus calls each of us by name to come out of our graves and to help others to do the same. “Lazarus, come out! Mary, come out! Jim and Joe, Kathy and Lisa, come out!” This is particularly Good News to someone who is addicted, whether to a chemical substance or to unsavory habits. “Lazarus, come out!” This is Good News for the person who has lived an empty, meaningless life, “Lazarus, come out!” This is Good News for the tired, the hurting, the person at his or her wit’s end. “Lazarus, come out!” This is good news for all of us: “Lazarus, come out!” This can be the beginning of a new life.
2) We need to be ready to welcome death any time. We live in a world that is filled with death. We kill each other in acts of murder, abortion, euthanasia, execution, war and terrorist activities. We kill ourselves through suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, overwork, stress, bad eating habits, and physical neglect. We watch calmly as others die from poverty, hunger and malnutrition, homelessness, unemployment, poor education, disease, child abuse, arms proliferation, discrimination, pollution, and destruction of the environment. The most important question is: am I ready to face my death? A strange question and its truthful answer are found in the sacred scriptures of the Hindus. “What is the greatest wonder in the world?” The answer is: “All of us know that we will surely die, but each of us foolishly thinks that he or she will not die any time in the near future.” Let us not be foolish; let us be wise, well-prepared and ever ready to meet our Lord with a clear conscience when the time comes. Thomas a Kempis wrote: “Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience …. Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow ….” (The Imitation of Christ, 1, 23, 1) (CCC #1014).
JOKES OF THE WEEK ON DEATH: 1) A dear old lady knew that she was about to die and hence asked her pastor to give her the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. After being anointed she said: “Soon I’ll be rocking in the bosom of Moses.” “No dear,” corrected the pastor, “the Bible says the bosom of Abraham.” She replied: “Father, at my age, you don’t care too much whose bosom it is!”
2) A funeral director called a man for further instructions about his mother-in-law’s body. “Do you want her embalmed, cremated, or buried?” “All the three!’ the man answered promptly. “Don’t take any chances.”
3) After an atheist died, a friend looked at him in the casket, shook his head, and remarked: “All dressed up and no place to go.”
4) A man was surprised to read the announcement of his own death in the obituary column of the local newspaper. Ringing up his close friend, he enquired, “Did you see the announcement of my death in the paper this morning?” ”Yes,” was the frightened answer in a shivering voice. “But where are you speaking from? Heaven or Hell?”
5) Alexander the Great once found his philosopher friend Diogenes standing in a field, looking intently at a large pile of bones. Asked what he was doing, the old man turned to Alexander and replied, “I am searching for the bones of your father Philip, but I cannot distinguish them from the bones of the slaves.” — Alexander got the point: everyone is equal in death. From the greatest to the least, from the most beautiful to the most ordinary, death is the universal equalizer.
6) The pastor was visiting a terminally sick parishioner in the hospital. As he started consoling the patient the sick man said: “Don’t worry about where I am heading to, Father. I have friends in both places.”
7) Three friends were discussing death and one of them asked: “What would you like people to say about you at your wake service while your dead body iutn the coffin is visible to everyone?” The first of the friends said: “I would like them to say, ‘He was a great humanitarian who cared about his community.’” The second said: “He was a great husband and father who was an example for many to follow.” The third friend said, “I would like them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving in the coffin!!’”
8) Dwight L. Moody. Moody said, “One day you will read in the newspaper that D. L. Moody of East Northfield, Massachusetts is dead. Well, don’t believe a word of it. I will have gone up higher, that’s all — out of this old clay tenement into a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. And at that moment, I will be more alive than I have ever been.”
9) A Catholic priest spied a parishioner enjoying some tasty smoked sausage on Friday during Lent — a strict no-no in the church. The priest, being a pragmatic soul, told the man for his Penance he was to bring a load of lumber to the church to help repair the roof.
The man grumbled, but went off to do his penance.
He arrived at the Church on the next Friday and proceeded to dump a huge load of sawdust into the parking lot.
“What’s this?” the priest wanted to know. “I told you your penance was a load of lumber, not sawdust.”
The man replied coolly, “Well, if that sausage I ate was meat, then this sawdust is lumber.”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups) (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).
1) Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
2) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
3) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
7) Making the Most of Holy Week: https://liturgicalyear.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/making-the-most-of-holy-week/
8) Video of Lazarus episode: 1) https://youtu.be/D0M7vvX6__M?list=PL8AWBBV1qdaxEvKBIuad60i7_5VWEkQCm
9) Lenten Sundays’ video reflections: http://www.stanthonycatholic.org/holy-days-reflections.htm
30 Additional anecdotes
1) “There is no reason to fear death.” Lee Trevino was sitting under a tree when lightning hit. “It bolted my arms and legs out stiff, jerked me off the ground,” he recalls, “and killed me. I knew I was dead. There was no pain. Everything turned a warm, gentle orange color. I saw my mama who had been dead for years. I saw other people from my life. It was a newsreel like you read about – my life passing before my eyes. But it was so pleasant, so wonderful, I felt great. I thought, boy this dying is really fun! It was when I woke up in the hospital badly burned and in pain that I knew I had come back to life again for some reason.” — Eternal life means that we do not have to live our lives fearing death. Lee Trevino said after his experience, “There is no reason to fear death.” [Willie: An Autobiography. Willie Nelson with Bud Shrake. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), pp. 218-219.] (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) What a friend we have in Jesus: One of the simplest and the most consoling hymns ever written is: ‘What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit; O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.’ Joseph Scriven wrote this hymn in 1857. He was a Christian missionary working in Canada, when he heard that his mother was seriously ill in Ireland. He could not go there to be with her. Instead, he wrote a consoling letter enclosing it with the words of this hymn, and mailed it to her. He offered to her in her illness the company and the comfort of Jesus. He knew that in times of illness and loneliness, there is none who can give us a better company and comfort than Jesus. There can be no greater friend then Jesus. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Now, when will I die?” A little boy was asked to give blood to his injured brother because he possessed the same rare blood type. Realizing that his brother would die without this blood, he agreed. When the transfusion was completed, the young donor asked the doctor, “Now, when will I die?” — We are moved by the innocent courage of a child who would give his blood to his brother thinking that it would cost him his life. Our Lord, however, knew for certain that the blood needed to save humankind was a total transfusion. To raise Lazarus and us to eternal life, our Lord literally had to bleed to death for us. To give life to us, Jesus had to give his life for us.(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “Look, he is moving!” I am reminded of the story of three buddies who are all killed in a car crash and they are immediately in Heaven going to orientation. They are all asked the question, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say at your funeral?” The first guy said, “I would like to hear them say, ‘He was a great doctor and a great family man.'” The second guy said, “I would love to hear them say, ‘He was a wonderful husband, a great school teacher and made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.'” The last guy said, “I would like to hear them say, ‘Look, he is moving!'” — Lazarus was moving, because Lazarus was once again alive. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) “What I want to know is how can I come back?” When Tiger Woods won the Masters and was holding at the same time, all four major titles to what is known as golf’s “Grand Slam,” he was asked in the press conference what he would say to the great golfer, Bobby Jones, if he walked into the room. Of course, Bobby Jones has been dead for many years and Tiger Woods said, “I would ask how he came back, because when I go out what I want to know is how can I come back!” — I’ve got the answer for Tiger Woods – believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will find out that death does not have the final say – Jesus does. He has conquered the fear of death and He is the only hope because Easter Sunday tells us that Jesus paid it all. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “I’m having my autopsy”: Over the years, Reader’s Digest has printed many quirky items from the daily lives of ordinary people. Many of these items are quite amusing. A woman wrote in with a funny excuse she heard from a co-worker. The man explained his absence from work by saying, “I’m having my autopsy. But with any luck I’ll be in tomorrow.” (“All in a Day’s Work,” April 2006, p. 69). — I don’t know what kind of medical procedure the man was having, but few people are able to return to work the day after their autopsy. Perhaps Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead, came back to work five or six days later, but there is no indication they did an autopsy on his body. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Good news and bad news: John and Jim were professional players with the Atlanta Braves who lived and breathed baseball. These guys breathed, discussed, ate, and slept baseball. One of their big concerns was whether there would be baseball in Heaven. They loved baseball so much that they were not sure at all they wanted to spend eternity in heaven unless they could play baseball. They had an agreement that the first one who died would somehow get a message back to earth, letting the other know whether baseball was in heaven or not. Well, it happened. John died, and Jim grieved. He grieved for days – deeply saddened over his friend John’s death. About two weeks went by, and then it happened. Jim was awakened in the middle of the night by the calling of his name, “Jim, Jim, Jim, wake up! This is John.” “John, where are you?” “I’m in Heaven – and I have some good news and bad news. It’s exciting, Jim. We do have baseball in Heaven. It’s great. We play every day and there are marvelous teams, and tough, exciting competition.” “That’s great,” said Jim. “But what’s the bad news?” “Well,” said John, “You are scheduled to pitch next Tuesday.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) He had been “turned loose, untied.” Robert McAfee Brown was a chaplain in World War II. He was on a troop ship with 1,500 Marines on their way home after having served in Japan. To his surprise, he was approached by a group of Marines asking him to lead a Bible study during the voyage. One day, after the group had studied the passage about the raising of Lazarus, a Marine came to Dr. Brown saying, “The story is about me!” The young man had gotten into a lot of trouble before going into the service. He could not stand the thought of facing his family. The story of Lazarus gave him hope and courage to face the consequences back home. He had been “turned loose, untied.” [William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Revised Edition (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), pp. 102-103.] — Christ had rolled away the stone of his past life. That’s what Christ does for us. He gives us the power to start again, to live again. He said to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” Then to those who were present, “Take off the grave-clothes and let him go.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) “Is that Jesus knocking?” There was a nurse who, before listening to the heartbeats of children, would plug the stethoscope into their ears and let them listen to their own hearts. One day she tucked the stethoscope into the ears of a four-year-old. Then she placed the disk over his heart. “Listen,” she said, “What do you suppose that is?” Thump, thump, thump. He drew his eyebrows together in a puzzled line and looked up as if lost in the mystery of the strange tap-tap-tapping deep in his chest. Then his face broke out in a wondrous grin. “Is that Jesus knocking?” he asked. — Well, maybe so. Maybe Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart this day. Maybe Jesus is ordering the door rolled away from your tomb. “Lazarus, come out!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) Ghost story: There was an article about a judge in Yugoslavia who was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on a light while standing in the bathtub. He was zapped and fell out of the tub. His wife called the doctor who pronounced him dead. In accordance with government health regulation, the judge’s body was immediately placed in a vault beneath the cemetery chapel. In the middle of the night, the judge regained consciousness. He had no idea where he was or what had happened. When he DID realize where he was, he ran to the closed vault door and began shaking it and yelling for help. The guard who was there was terrified and fled. Fortunately, the guard got some help; came back; opened the door and released the newly revived judge. The judge phoned his wife that he was coming home. She screamed and hung up the phone. Next he tried going to the homes of several friends. They took one look at him, thought he was a ghost and slammed the door in his face. Finally, he found a friend who hadn’t heard he was dead. He convinced that friend to act as a go-between. Gradually, the judge was able to convince his friends and family that he really was alive! –Lazarus from John’s Gospel could have identified with that judge. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “But for the last 25 years, I drove a hearse.” There was a guy riding in a cab one day. He was new to the city and was looking for a good place to eat, so he leaned forward, tapped the cabby on the shoulder and said, “Hey, Buddy.” The driver let out a blood curdling scream and lost control of the cab. He nearly hit a bus, jumped the curb and stopped just inches from going through a huge plate-glass window and into a crowded restaurant. For a few minutes, there was dead silence in the cab. All you could hear was two hearts beating like bass drums pounding out a quick march. The driver finally turned around and said, “Man, you scared the living daylights out of me.” The passenger, who was white as a sheet and whose eyes were as big as dinner plates, said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize tapping you on the shoulder would scare you so badly.” The cabby said, “Well, it’s not your fault. This is my first day driving a cab. But for the last 25 years, I drove a hearse.” (Patricia Ridpath, Laughter the Best Medicine, Reader’s Digest). — If I’d driven a hearse for 25 years and somebody tapped me on the shoulder, you can bet I’d have screamed like a little girl. I’m kind of goosey anyway. Just ask Mary or the staff. If I’m concentrating on something it’s not hard to startle me. To say that Mary, Martha, the Disciples and the mourners gathered at the grave Lazarus were startled, would be putting it mildly. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Carpe Diem, seize the day: In the movie, Dead Poets’ Society, Robin Williams plays the role of John Keating, a transformational teacher in a rigid, regimented private school. On the first day of Literature class, Keating takes his students down to the school lobby where trophy cases display the photos of earlier graduating classes. “Look at these pictures, boys,” says Keating. “The young men you behold had the same fire in their eyes that you do. They planned to take the world by storm and make something magnificent of their lives. That was over 70 years ago. Now they are all fertilizing daisies. If you will listen, they have a message for you.” As the students gazed at the class photographs, Keating begins whispering, “Carpe Diem, Carpe Diem, seize the day, seize the day.” — Life is a gift here and now. Enjoy it as God wishes and be ever ready to share His eternal life. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “I was alive! What a blessing!” Sometimes it takes a traumatic moment to awaken us to life. Jane Marie Thibault is a professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Louisville. Jane is nationally known for her work in clinical gerontology. In her book, A Deepening Love Affair Jane writes: “I began seeing life as a gift when I survived a collision with an 18-wheeler on October 2, 1990. After crawling out of my battered car, I wobbled around a field in a daze. What I remember most is being totally aware of the greenness of the grass, the blueness of the sky, a few puffs of cloud overhead, and some birds squawking raucously in the tree. I was alive! What a blessing! What a precious gift everything was at that moment!” v
14) “They have swords, we have songs.” Huber Mates, a teacher and journalist, was imprisoned in 1959 when Castro tried to destroy the Church in Cuba. A letter Huber smuggled out of prison to his wife and children contained these words: “I know that I will die in prison. I am sad not to see you again. But I am at peace. They have swords, we have songs.” The people of the Resurrection have songs to sing. Golf pro, Paul Azinger, put it this way while he battled cancer, “We are not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We are in the land of the dying going to the land of the living.” –There is a resurrection for you. Get a life! “In the lily bulb there is a flower,/ in the seed an apple tree, /in cocoons a hidden treasure,/ butterflies will soon be free. /In the snow and cold of winter/ there’s a spring that waits to be. “ — If resurrection rings through all of nature, could there not be a resurrection for me? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) “What is the greatest problem you see in your university?” Harvard University is considered one of the greatest academic institutions in America and around the world; its students have the highest SAT scores, the brightest minds. A few years ago, the President of Harvard University was asked, “What is the greatest problem you see in your university?” He said, “Emptiness! There is no meaning or passion for life. Everybody is bored–no fulfillment.” — Fancy titles and good credentials do not guarantee even a bright mind a meaningful life, unless they are connected to the living God. When Jesus made this bold claim, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” he was connecting us to the living God, for He is God the Son. Our existence is not filled with some run-of-the-mill expectation, but by Resurrection power. We are called to life. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) We can find humor even in cemeteries: Every once in a while a series of epitaphs comes across the Internet. I’m glad that we can find humor even in cemeteries. Here are some of the best ones I’ve seen: “Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York: Died 1942. Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.” Or this one from an English cemetery: “Anna Wallace The children of Israel wanted bread, and the Lord sent them manna. Clark Wallace wanted a wife, and the Devil sent him Anna.” In a New Mexico cemetery: “Here lies Johnny Yeast . . . Pardon me for not rising.” In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery: “Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.” In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery: “Here lays The Kid. We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger, But slow on the draw.” In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England: “On the 22nd of June, Jonathan Fiddle went out of tune.” In another English cemetery we find this last thoughtful epitaph: “Remember man, as you walk by, As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so shall you be. Remember this and follow me.” To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone: “To follow you I’ll not consent . . . Until I know which way you went.” — We are not making light of death. We simply hope to put it in the proper perspective. We want to see it in the light of an empty tomb. The story of the raising of Lazarus helps us do just that. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) “So from that day on they plotted to take his life” Army Captain David Roselle lost his right foot when the Humvee in which he was riding hit an anti-tank mine in Iraq. Roselle was airlifted to a hospital in Germany and later to Walter Reed where he worked hard to walk again. After taking a leave to witness the birth of his son in Colorado, Captain David Roselle returned to his command post in Iraq to finish the job he had started. Other wounded military personnel have done the same. They are going back to finish the job they started. The highest form of courage belongs to those who won’t quit. Real courage means being perfectly aware of the worst that can happen, yet doing the right thing anyway. — Jesus went back to Jerusalem. In raising Lazarus from the grave, Jesus set in motion his own crucifixion and burial. “So from that day on they plotted to take his life” (Verse 53). When He set His face toward Jerusalem, He set His face toward the cross and death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 20th century pastor who gave his life resisting Adolph Hitler in Germany, opens his book, The Cost of Discipleship, with these words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “Nothing. I just helped him cry.” Leo Buscgalia tells about a four-year-old child whose elderly neighbor had recently lost his wife. Seeing the man crying, the kid went over and climbed up in the old man’s lap and sat there. Later the little boy’s mother asked, “What did you say to Mr. Jones in his grief?” The kid replied, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.” — Some of the best things that we can do is to help our friends cry in their sorrow. Every time a heart is broken, every time a grave is opened, every time a divorce happens, every time a child suffers, every time the pain comes, Jesus cries. He weeps because He cares. When buildings are bombed, and wars won’t cease, when children are abused and tsunamis sweep over the innocent, Jesus weeps; his heart is touched with our grief. St. Joseph Catholic Church sits directly across the street from the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. Less than a year after that tragic day, the church erected a statue of Jesus weeping. When terror strikes, when evil reigns, when the wrong has its day, Jesus weeps. Jesus is deeply troubled that death still has its grip on us. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) The Lord of the Rings: There is a scene in the movie Return of the King, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga The Lord of the Rings, in which Aragorn gives the dead soldiers who had deserted their king a chance to regain their honor if they will help to defend the City of Kings which is under attack by evil powers. He enters a cave through a small crevice in the mountain. It is dark and the sound effects make it clear that this is not a pleasant place. He steps over piles of dry bones heaped up against the walls of the cave. Suddenly, in the center of a large room, these skeletal creatures begin to threaten him, even though they are not really alive. Aragorn offers them a chance to redeem themselves by making good on their pledge to defend the good against evil, and to be a part of a community that will restore the kingdom. — The prophet Ezekiel, in the background for today’s first reading, has a similar experience. In a vision or dream, he is with God in a valley of dry bones (37:1-11). God tells Ezekiel to instruct the bones to listen to the Lord. God restores their bodies with muscle and flesh and gives them breath, raising them to life and the knowledge that God is the Lord. This powerful image of God’s Spirit being breathed into the bodies brings us back to the creation story in Genesis and also to the way in which the Holy Spirit makes us spiritually alive. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) No sequels to Lazarus episode: Every now and then, you’ll find a film critic who bemoans the state of Hollywood movies by pointing out that there are too many sequels. Last year, a writer noted that in 2010 there were 86 sequels in various stages of development. Just this year, we have “Scream 4″ about to open, along with “Underworld 4,” “Mission Impossible 4,” “Cars 2,” “The Hangover 2,” “Transformers 3,” and the final part of the Harry Potter Series. Ever since the first story was ever told, human beings have wanted to know: “What happened next?” — I find myself feeling that way about this Sunday’s Gospel – surely one of the most dramatic and moving episodes in all of the New Testament. And it always makes me wonder: What happened to Lazarus after he was brought back from the dead? How much longer did he live? What did people say to him? What did he say to them? Was he haunted by his memories of his former life? Did he remember what happened when he was dead? How did all of that change him? More importantly: what would any of us do if given a second chance at life? Well, there is no Lazarus 2. His story stands alone. (Deacon Greg Kandra: http://www.patheos.com/community/deaconsbench/ ) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Most athletes cried: One of the most touching moments in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles came by surprise. It happened one night on prime-time television, after Jeff Blatnik of the United States defeated Thomas Johansson of Sweden for the gold medal in Graeco-Roman wrestling. When the match ended, Blatnik didn’t jump up and down. He didn’t throw his arms into the air. He simply dropped to his knees, crossed himself, bowed his head, and prayed. When the camera zoomed in on his face, millions of viewers saw the torrent of tears pouring down Blatnik’s cheeks. Blatnik had every right to cry. But it wasn’t because he had taken the gold. There was a bigger reason. Two years before, Jeff Blatnik had contracted cancer. Eighteen months before the games, he had undergone surgery. And now in the face of great odds, he had won the second biggest battle of his life. The next day all major newspapers carried Blatnik’s story. Referring to Blatnik’s tears, sportswriter Bill Lyons wrote: “One of the most worthwhile things about the Olympics is that they remind us of the cleansing, therapeutic value of a good cry. You watch the gold medalists mount the victory platform and listen to their national anthems, and in almost every instance their eyes begin to mist….” — And that’s what happened in Blatnik’s case. Jeff Blatnik became an instant hero, not because of his victory over Johansson, nor because of his victory over cancer, but because he shared his humanity with us. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) “He would have sent a goat.” Early in his career, young Clarence Darrow was defending a client against an older, more experienced attorney, who sarcastically dismissed Darrow as “that beardless youth”. Darrow rebutted, “My worthy adversary seems to downgrade me for not having a beard. Let me reply with a story: The King of Spain once dispatched a youthful nobleman to the court of a neighboring monarch, who sneered, “Does the King of Spain lack men that he sends me a beardless boy? To which the young ambassador replied, “Sire, if my King had supposed that you equated wisdom with a beard, he would have sent a goat.”– Clarence Darrow won the case. The older attorney and neighboring king were both blinded by prejudice as were the Pharisees who confronted Jesus when he healed the blind man. (Bennet Cerf; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) Spiritual blindness: A sixty-year-old woman living in a mid-western town was finally prevailed upon by her family to see the eye doctor. She had never worn glasses in her life. The doctor gave her a thorough test and asked her to return in three days when he would have her glasses ready. He fitted the glasses and asked her to look out of the window. Almost breathless, she exclaimed, “Why, I can see the steeple of our church, and it is three blocks away.” “You mean you have never been able to see that steeple at that short a distance?” asked the doctor. “Gracious no”, she declared, “I never knew I was supposed to see that far.” “Madam”, said the eye expert, “You’ve been going around for years, half blind!”– Similarly, many cannot see the truth which God has made known to us….(Msgr. Arthur Tonne; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) Getting back your sight! During World War II, John Howard was blinded in an aeroplane explosion and could not see a thing for the next twelve years. But one day as he was walking down a street near his parents’ home in Texas, he suddenly began to see “red sand’ in front of his eyes. Without warning his sight had returned again. According to an eye specialist, a block keeping blood out of the optic nerve, caused by the explosion, had opened. Commenting on his experience John said, “You don’t know what it is like for a father to see his children for the first time.” — But according to the Gospel something more spectacular happened to the man born blind, for Christ conferred on him, not only his physical sight but also spiritual insight; Jesus opened the eyes of Faith for the man born blind, so that the man believed in Jesus as one believes in the sun. (Vima Dasan; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
25) Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: The story of the man born blind in today’s Gospel reminds us of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” an allegory used to illustrate “our want of education.” There we find all humanity chained in a darkened cave throughout life. These captives can see nothing but flickering images on a wall…shadows, appearances, illusions, which they take for reality. One prisoner, liberated from the chains, makes the arduous crawl upwards to the world of the shining sun. When he returns to the cave with his tales of the new-found source of light and life and warmth it gives, the prisoners think him crazy. They simply deny his experience. It just can’t be. The chains and the amusing images on the wall are reality. Thus, his conversion is ridiculed; his invitation is resisted. — Clearly there are parallels between the Platonic myth of the cave and the story of the man born blind. Each figure is given new sight. Each is rejected by the inhabitants of the old world. And even the so-called wise authorities would rather cling to their chains and discuss the shadows than embark on the journey of Faith. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
26) ‘Death Be Not Proud’: John Gunther’s book, Death Be Not Proud, tells the story of his son’s last year of life. At sixteen, when most young people are dreaming about their future, John Gunther’s son was dying from a brain tumor. The boy’s quiet courage in his encounter with death prompted critic Judith Crist to write: “His story is a glowing affirmation of the nobility of even the shortest of lives.” Book reviewer Walter Duranty of the New York Herald-Tribune said: “To read Death Be Not Proud is to grasp the meaning of man’s power to defy Death’s hurt; to be filled with confidence and emptied of despair.” (Albert Cylwicki in The Word Resounds) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
27) Keep the Fork! There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, and what Scriptures she would like read. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “This is very important; I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand. That surprises you, doesn’t it?” The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story and, from there on, I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending Church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork … the best is yet to come.’” The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew that the young woman had a better grasp of Heaven than he did. She knew ”hat something better was coming. At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. — He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. (Quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
28) Old Rattle-Bones: The Prophet Ezekiel’s haunting vision of the valley of dry bones (Ez 37: 1-11), forms the background for today’s first reading. Many years ago, there was a man, crippled and poor, who was cruelly named “Old Rattle-Bones” by a group of boys in the neighborhood. The leader of the group, Freddie, was worried one day when he saw the crippled man heading right towards his home. Because his friends were with him, the boy attempted to hide his anxiety by taunting. “Go on, Old Rattle-Bones,” he shouted, “see if I care if you talk to my mother.” The man looked at Freddie sadly as he passed the group of boys and said, “You would not be calling me such names if you knew what caused my crippled condition.” He continued along the street arriving at Freddie’s home, whereupon he was warmly welcomed by Freddie’s mother. She called for her son to come in also. While the mother brought out a pot of tea, the man turned to the boy and told him a story. “Years ago, on the first day of spring, a young mother took a baby outdoors for a carriage ride along the river. Stooping to pick a flower, she briefly let go of the handle; suddenly the carriage lurched forward, careening down the hill. Before she could catch up with the carriage, it had plunged into the river. I was sitting on a nearby bench and heard her scream. I ran after the buggy and jumped into the river. After a difficult struggle, I managed to get the baby safely back to shore. I left before anyone could ask my name. But you see the river water was very cold, and it aggravated my rheumatism. Now ten years later, I can scarcely hobble along. For you see Freddie, that baby was you.”– Freddie hung his head in shame and began to cry. “Thank you for saving me,” he wept. “Can you ever forgive me for calling you ‘Old Rattle Bones’? I didn’t know who you were!” (Brian Cavanaugh in Sowers Seeds of Christian Family Values; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
29) Giving up hope until: A pastor tells of the experience of a young woman at a local children’s hospital. She was asked by a teacher from the Church to tutor a boy with some schoolwork while he was in hospital. The woman didn’t realize until she got to the hospital that the boy was in a burn’s unit, in considerable pain and barely able to respond. She tried to tutor him, stumbling through the English lesson, ashamed of putting him through such a senseless exercise. The next day when she returned to the hospital, a nurse asked her, “What did you do to the boy?” Before she could finish apologizing, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. His entire attitude has changed. It’s as though he has decided to live!” A few weeks later, the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until this young woman arrived. With joyful tears he explained, “They wouldn’t send a tutor to work on nouns and verbs with a dying boy, would they?” — Sometimes we are invited into people’s lives and into places and events that, on the surface, have no meaning or purpose to us. We ask ourselves, what are we doing here? What purpose do we have here? Often, we define ourselves only by what we can see or understand; we forget that we are part of something larger than ourselves. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
30) The sacraments lift us up: During World War II, Geoffrey Jackson, a young British Catholic, made the acquaintance of an older Catholic man in the Middle East. The older man, who was dying and aware of it, did not hesitate to share his wisdom with this new young friend. The most important thing, he advised, is to cling to the Mass at all costs. No matter how routine it could seem to be at times, he said, hold on to it and you will “surely come out on the other side with certainty and peace of heart.” After the war, Jackson entered the British diplomatic service and was eventually named the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Uruguay. In 1971, during a guerrilla uprising by the Tupamaros, Ambassador Jackson was kidnapped, drugged, and locked into an underground prison. His captors held him there for nine months, with daily threats of death. Only lately has he set down on paper an account of how his faith sustained him before his release, and even enabled him to rise into a better self.
During that long “burial,” he found by experience how much prayer helped him to remember that he was not alone. Now he recalled especially the counsel of his Middle East friend, long since dead, to “cling to the Mass.” He marked a calendar on the wall, and each Sunday in particular he “attended” Mass. Fondly picturing himself back in his parish church and recalling as well as he could the Mass prayers of priest and faithful, he went through the whole rite with devotion. When his captors finally agreed to give him a bible, that helped his “Eucharistic celebration” even more. Of course, he could not receive communion, to his deep regret. (Ever since those days he has found it unbearable to think that some people in the world are totally deprived of the Bread of Life year after year). The wonderful feature of these spiritual Masses was that he could be taking part in one of them right under the unsuspecting eyes of his masked jailers. Prayer, he concluded, is “tyranny’s enemy, the safeguard of its victim’s mind and life.”
— Today’s special preface fits in with this story when it says “Christ gives us the sacraments to lift us up to everlasting life.” I am sure that since his release Geoffrey Jackson has often prayed in the spirit of today’s final prayer: “Almighty Father, by this sacrifice may we always remain one with your Son, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood we share, for He is Lord for ever and ever.” May his experience help us, who have no problem at all about attending Mass every Sunday and even every day, to better appreciate the Mass as a prayer that will carry us through to “certainty and peace of heart.”-Father Robert F. McNamara. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).LP/23
FIVE FINGER PRAYER FOR LENT
- Your thumb is nearest you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a ‘sweet duty.’
The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.
3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.
4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.
5. And lastly comes our little finger, the smallest finger of all, which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, ‘The least shall be the greatest among you.’ Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 22) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604