Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekend Homily

I am taking a weekly preaching class which is meant to prepare us for parishes one day. Each week different guys get up and preach for the upcoming weekends Masses. It is great fun, very intimidating and interesting at the same time. Below you will find the Gospel reading for Sunday and my proposed Homily. Let me know what you think. (note: the Homily text is written to read so I followed loose grammar rules). PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS

A reading from the Holy Gospel According to John:

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
hen Jesus heard this 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.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“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?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

A Practice Homily from Me:

Let us also go to die with him. Those are the chilling words we hear from Thomas in this morning’s Gospel reading.

Jesus, confronted by Mary and Martha, is begged to go and heal the ailing Lazarus. Yet upon hearing this request, Jesus is not rushed. In fact he waits, and he declares that Lazarus has died, and then journeys to Bethany, to Lazarus’ tomb. Where the stone will be rolled away, and Lazarus will rise and walk away from his death, and into new life, covered with bandages, and before the eyes of all of village.

Yet Thomas, upon hearing of Lazarus’ death, and Jesus’ intention to travel near to Jerusalem, to Bethany, declares “let us also go to die with him.”

Thomas’s words speak to the reality developing in the Gospel of John. Jesus’ signs, wonders, and miracles have not only attracted the attention of the people, they also have attracted the scorn of the Pharisees and temple leaders. The tension in Judea is building, and it is only a matter of time before Jesus will be arrested, crucified, and delivered unto death. His very public act of raising a dead man, Lazarus, not only provokes those who seek his death, but it also foreshadows what is to come.

Jesus too will die, the stone will be rolled away, but when he rises, he will not be wrapped in the burial cloth of death, but in the resplendent light of the resurrection. He will have conquered death and given us all hope of life eternal.

Thomas may not fully understand all that is about to transpire, but he does understand that in coming to Bethany, near to Jerusalem, Jesus is becoming a marked man. And Thomas, in a great moment of faith, does not run from this mark, from this impending death sentence, but rather he wishes to journey together with Lazarus, and with Jesus, to death.

This past weekend I joined several friends to watch a recently released French film, called “Of Gods and Men.” The film tells the true story of a French Trappist monastery, in the hills of North Africa, Algeria to be exact. For decades eight monks, eight men of faith, former doctors, military leaders, plumbers and farmers, quietly worked and prayed amongst the people of Tibhrine. There they ran a small farm, raised honeybees, and cared for the sick and the poor. Each of the men had left behind their former lives, their families, and all that they knew to find God in the silence of their prayers, in the joy of their religious community, and in the love they shared with all those they encountered.

Unfortunately for the Monks, a civil war broke out over much of Algeria in the 1990’s. As the government, plagued with corruption, attempted to battle the growing force of radical Islam, scores of westerners, Christians and civilians were being brutally murdered, many in deaths reminiscent of John the Baptist’s. Faced with the reality of the growing violence that surrounded them, the monks of Tibhirine had to decide whether they would stay and meet a certain and painful end, or whether they would retreat to the safety of their homeland, France. After a prolonged emotional struggle, the community discerned their future together. Gripped with great fear and uncertainty, they anguished together, struggled with doubt, and ultimately they surrendered in and to faith. In the end they all decided that they must stay and journey together as a small beacon of light in a time of darkness. They knew what they journey would hold. Yet they knew not, the day, nor the hour. So, each and everyone journeyed in silence and in peace, in friendship and love, awaiting the night when the soldiers too would come for them, and the moment they would join Jesus on his journey to Calvary.

These simple men gave all they had in order to build a community of faith, in and with each other. They gave all they had to the poor and lived by faith alone. They lived in love and charity. Each of us, all of us, are called to do the same. We are called to prophetically witness the love of Christ to all of our brothers and sisters, to live by faith in a world of doubt, to be a light in a time of darkness

We too are called to journey with Christ, to Bethany, in order to raise Lazarus from the tomb. We are called to raise our brothers and sisters who have yet to encounter healing power of God’s love. We raise Lazarus from the tomb every time we care for the least of our brothers and sisters. When we forgive those who have hurt us so deeply, we enable new life to begin. When we reach out to care for the sick and dying, we journey beside them as they roll away the stone, and prepare to enter the loving arms of God. This lent we must all ask ourselves where we can find Lazarus in our own lives? We must ask ourselves who it is that waits for us to call them forth from the tomb.

The monks of Tibhrine lived and died as humble witnesses to the light of Christ. In a time of great struggled they walked beside a people and a nation in need of hope. They called forth the sick and dying from the tomb, and they walked the lonely hill to Calvary. The monks knew, just as Jesus did, that by staying, by refusing to leave, and by continuing a ministry of hope, and healing, and that the cross awaited them. They knew, as He knew, that the world needed love in a time of hate, and that those hidden in the shadows because of fear, needed a great light.

In the closing moment of Gods and Men, the filmmakers did not show the gruesome end to the holy monks lives. Rather the producer chose to show them in their humanity, walking with heads held high, and eyes filled with tears. The film ended with Brothers walking into the light and thus surrendering unto death and into Resurrection. Something they all had already achieved the first moment they decided to give their lives to God and each other.

Like Thomas, Let us also go to die with him.

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