“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Two weeks ago we heard a request from Jesus, “Give me a drink.”
Last week we heard the question to Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind.”
This week we hear a cry, a pleading and yes, an accusation born of grief toward Jesus, “If you had only been here Jesus, our brother Lazarus would not have died. Your friend would still be alive. Why didn’t you come right away? Didn’t you get the news? Why did it take so long? He’s dead now. Four days dead, dead in the tomb.”
Are these not the human cries that we hear in so many different ways rising from the hearts of our sisters and brothers around the world who are struggling with Covid-19; who are struggling as refugees sequestered in camps where they are piled on top of one another; the cries of those who are imprisoned in detention centers because they crossed a border fleeing from violence and oppression; from those discriminated against, who are beaten in the streets, who are killed by suicide bombers as they go to pray in their church, their mosque or their synagogue; the muted cries of those, especially the elderly, who feel isolated, lonely and forgotten.
“Lord, if only you had been here…”
Look at our crucifix.
Jesus is here.
Though unrecognized, though rejected, though simply ignored, he is here. As Pope Francis said Friday in his beautiful reflection standing before an empty St. Peter’s Square,
“‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’ Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: ‘Do you not care about me?’ It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus, too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.”
“Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died. Don’t you care?”
“Where have you laid him?” “Sir, come and see.”
“And Jesus wept.”
Jesus wept then and weeps for us now, today, at this very moment as victims of Covid-19 struggle to take their next breath, with doctors and nurses exhausted from long hours at their bedsides, and who do not have enough protective equipment or ventilators.
Jesus weeps when young adults and those who are not in the “vulnerable age bracket” selfishly gather at the beach or at parties feeling invincible because they’ll just have “flu-like symptoms” while not realizing or worse, even caring, that they might be a carrier of the disease for their parents or grandparents or for the checker in the grocery store while they are shopping.
Jesus wept as I read an email this week from my dear brother Maryknoller, Fr. Jim Eble:
“I am writing to you to ask for your prayers for us here in Tanzania. I feel we are heading for very chaotic and troubling times in which many people will be dying. The government is doing all it can: closing all schools, calling off meetings, setting up hospitals that will be receiving the Covid-19 patients.
“The poor will be devastated by the Coronavirus. They can’t be isolated like one can in the West. They live crowded, on top of one another. They can’t always be washing their hands. They struggle to even get daily drinking water and many don’t have soap. The Tanzanian health care system, which is poor at best, will be totally overwhelmed.
“Many of the expatriates are leaving. But all the Maryknoll Society members and many Lay Missioners are staying. All of us now are reflecting and praying before the gathering storm on how to respond to the challenges of the future. Please pray for.”
And Jesus weeps.
Jesus weeps because of that first “no” in the garden. Jesus weeps because suffering and death were not God’s plan but the manifestation and repercussions of our sin from one generation to the next.
Jesus weeps because so many do not know him and many do not care to know him.
Jesus weeps because he became one of us and knows—in a way that we cannot possibly conceive—the horror and destructive force of human sin.
Last Wednesday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Incarnation, of the Creator’s infinite humility to become a creature, one like us in all things except that which does not truly define the true meaning and depth of our creation, that foreign virus, that death dealing pathogen, called sin.
Mary, the new Eve, said “yes” to God’s plan and thereby counteracted the “no” of the first Eve. In Mary’s surrender and vulnerability, God incarnates himself into our midst, into our vulnerability, and our suffering even unto death to be the antidote of mercy and forgiveness.
Look at Jesus on the cross.
“This illness is not to end and death, but it is for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through it and that you may believe.”
That we may believe.
I quote Pope Francis once again.
“Lord you are calling to us, calling us to faith.
“You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary and what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.
“We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Holy Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is a life in the Holy Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people —often forgotten people—who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our times: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priest, religious men and women and so very often others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves…
“How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility? How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting the routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer? How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.”
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
“And Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if they died, with live/ and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
Do you believe this? Do I believe in the very depths of my being, in the center of my soul, so much so, that I do not roll the stone to seal myself in the tomb of my fear and myself interest?
I urge you to please read Fr. Lou’s reflection that you received on SMP connect, your email or our parish app. It is the cry of a tenderhearted young priest longing to make sense of what is heavy on the hearts of so many. He writes:
“For me, closing of the adoration Chapel has been the most stark and sobering of all the closures to this date. Here is the place where anyone is able to come at any time and any day to bask in the Divine Presence that informs all of creation.
“Here’s a place where God desires to be so intimately united to his people that he remains in the humblest of forms for us to approach him with the confidence of a child. Here’s a place where I knew we constantly had the faithful of Christ before God, who became so little so we could approach him. As we began to work out a plan, I had to leave the room for a couple of minutes to compose myself.”
“And Jesus wept.”
People have been so kind and solicitous to me. They keep telling me, “Father Jim, take care of yourself. Make sure you don’t get infected and get sick. You are too vulnerable,” which is a nice way of saying, “Fr. Jim you’re too old!”
I have never washed my hands with soap so much in my life or have prayed Hail Marys for the souls in purgatory while doing so.
Yet, I am your pastor, your shepherd, and like the good Shepherd, Jesus, I too must be with you to serve you in whatever way I possibly can: personally, over the phone, email or virtually as we are doing now.
As your pastor, I say to you, “Roll away the stone,” in whatever form it may be.
Roll away the stone of impatience, selfishness and indifference.
Roll away the stone of mediocrity in your faith, of making excuses that you cannot Make All Sundays Sacred, or that I’m too tired or that sports are more important.
Roll away the stone of making excuses that you cannot be a good steward of your time, talent and treasure—of your prayer, service and financial giving.
Roll away the stone of the hardness of your heart toward your spouse, of blaming and pointing fingers and of dismissiveness and dissension, especially toward whatever teaching of the Church you may not like.
Don’t we all long to hear Jesus crying out to us, “Come out! Come out from whatever it is that entombs you and keeps you in that place of the dead?”
Jesus calls us out from that place of sin and death so that we can be untied and set free.
As Catholics, our most powerful weapon at this moment is our prayer calling out to the world, “Come out and come to Jesus who is resurrection and eternal life.”
My sisters and brothers, this is a profound and decisive time—not of fear and death but of faith and new life in the risen Jesus who prayed, “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.”
“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.’”
We have hope. We have faith, because with Jesus, life never dies.