5th Sunday of Lent
Reading I Ezekiel 37:12-14
Reading II Romans 8:8-11
Gospel John 11:1-45
Jesus would ask all of us this morning, “What can I do for you? Just tell me one thing that I can do that would change your life and you would come alive?” Probably most of us would list physical things: “I wish you would give me a new heart. I wish my eyes were 20/20 vision. I want all my kids to be healthy. Could you burn the mortgage on my house so we could have money to do everything we want to do?” The story would go on and on, pew by pew. And Jesus, not to upset us, would simply say, “You people of little faith.”
What everyone should be asking is what the elect and the candidates are asking: “Lord, open my eyes. Give me a relationship with you. Awaken me, untie me, don’t let me be stranded by anything.”
That’s the message that Jesus wants to plant into our hearts. He’s really saying, “Do you want to be alive?” Everything he did had a purpose. He became friends with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Why those three? Martha was the one who had to be busy about everything. Mary would be attentive to Jesus. Lazarus was just always there. But they knew Jesus was different, but they didn’t know just how different. The whole Gospel of John is just the same message over and over again: Jesus is the one who was sent by the Father and he leads the Spirit and the Three of them are One — and when you have that — you have everything. All the things that we try and do in life can never measure up to that.
I remember a lady I knew at a former parish. She was an only child and her mom and dad passed away. Periodically, I would stop by her house. She would show me her house. We’d go into the bedroom and the drawers were filled with Mom and Dad’s clothing just like they were going to put them on. Everything was there in the house, she did not move a thing. I said to her, “Now your Mom and Dad would like to make this your home.” She said, “That’s all I had was the two of them and God took them and there is nothing left in my life.” She worked in St. Louis. She would get up at 4:30 in the morning to skip all the heavy traffic and set everything up for everybody so when they all came to work everything was in motion for people to go and do their job. She just had a heart of gold. But she went through depression and I’ll never forget the day her nephew called me, and the two of us went to St. Louis and she was in the psychiatric unit dealing with depression.
When I walked into that hospital I became depressed. They were giving her what they used to call “shock treatments.” This was some time ago and people in the medical field are not treating patients like this anymore. She would have several “shock treatments” and they would help a little bit, then she would come home. Sometime the treatments would help her, and sometimes she was back in the hospital again. But her life was a beautiful thing and she was a beautiful woman — but she really needed to experience the resurrection of Lazarus. The God who loves us and loved her wanted so much for her to find joy and peace. But she was going through emotions, a beautiful lady, but she never could just let go.
God doesn’t invite us here to get a “shock treatment.” He is simply saying, “Wake up. Live. I’m giving you my body and my blood. What more can anyone give? And if you have that, you too will have life and your life will be the life of my Father, My Life, and the Spirit. But you have to want it.” This is a powerful message for us. At the very end, Jesus told those gathered around him, “Lazarus is alive. Go take the wrappings off. Untie him. Free him up to come alive. The three of you are my friends but you have to know that my Spirit is in you. It is not just about me, but it’s about what we have shared.”
And so you and I, every week, almost everyday, we have to say, “Lord, untie me. I am tied up in knots today. I can’t take one more thing.” Or, we ask, “Why am I suffering? Can you untie me?” Suffering means everything but the greatest suffering that you and I experience is if we do not have God in our lives.
So this morning, as we come closer and closer to the joy of Easter, Jesus is saying, “Just let me awaken you. Let me take away and untie the things that are holding you down. Let me take the sadness and put on a smile. There’s no treatment for it, it just comes when people reach out to other people. It comes when people love and reach out and know what mercy is.” That’s the real healing. And we all need that day by day by day.
So this morning as we have the elect and the candidates experience their third scrutiny, you and I as a parish family will give them the Lord’s Prayer that we say every Sunday and we will say to them, “Receive this prayer. Just know that God is gradually opening everything to each one of you.” And when the elect and candidates look out here and see all of your faces they will think, “Wow. There is no way I can fall asleep. There is no way I will not have that Spirit.” Everywhere that you and I go we will always know the difference — and the difference is that God is saying, “Rise. Live. For I am your God, and you are my people.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file B1)