Fr. Bert's Homily

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

The Fifth Weekend of Lent 2020-Deacon Dan O'Connor's Homily

 A few days ago, I spoke to Gary, my neighbor and friend of some 20 years.  We were both in the grocery store in Newtown trying to find the last box of pasta. I asked him how his wife Jennifer was doing as I knew that she was fighting a very challenging battle against cancer. He looked tired and sad.  He told me that “the morphine that she is taking is causing her to be confused”.  Hearing that I knew that her condition was not good, I then asked him how he was doing…He looked at me and said…”I wish it could be me instead of her!”  What a wonderfully sad and heroic statement…a husband with real heartfelt pain for the love of his wife!  I was greatly moved!

In this week’s Gospel reading we hear the shortest verse in the Bible “Jesus wept.” But for all its concise simplicity, that verse is packed with unfathomable complexity.  Jesus wept! It seems natural enough given that Jesus had just spoken to Lazarus’ grieving sisters, Martha and Mary. Maybe most of us would have wept too. Except that Jesus had come to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that in a few short minutes all this weeping would turn to astonished joy, and then tearful laughter, and then worship of God. He had come to Bethany to bring these mourners the best news they could have imagined. So one would think that Jesus would be a confident, joyful calm in that sea of sorrow. But he was “greatly troubled” and he wept. Why?

The answer is indeed complex.  In addition to Jesus being God…Jesus was a man, a human being with our same feelings and concerns. He got hungry, he got tired, he felt pain and grief.  Jesus really understood and understands our human condition…not in a god-like way but in a very human way! The Fourth Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass reminds us that Jesus was "a man like us in all things but sin". Jesus in his divine nature enjoyed the “Wisdom of the Father”.  His capacity for intimate participation in our humanity was much greater, since his mind and soul were not clouded by the attractions of sin.  Jesus was able to grasp both the joys and the tragedy of our human condition in a way that only great saints have understood. Jesus’ weeping at Lazarus’ tomb give us a glimpse into how God views our eventual suffering and death. His reasons for not sparing us these things are a mystery.  Jesus has suffered more than we ever will ever know in order to pay the full cost of our eternal resurrection. Even with all the concerns for keeping our distance in this time of COVID-19, yesterday I called my friend and left a message asking if I could be of any help. Later in the day when walking our dogs, we stopped by and put a card in their mailbox. We expressed our hopes and prayers with a renewed offer to help.

Today, a little while ago. the phone rang.  We heard the news that my neighbor and friend’s wife had died early this morning. Jennifer was a “Faith filled” lady, a very, very nice person. We were told that her three grown daughters had made it home to be with her.  She had shared that “that she loved her family, that she knew she was loved, and that she was looking forward to being in the arms of Jesus”. I think we all know that death and dying is just wrong.  When we lose someone, we love…it hurts! We cry. It just confirms for me that we were not created to die…we are taught that death came into the world as a result of man’s free will to choose a path away from God a path that leads to a life of pain, suffering and death. Every Easter Vigil the exulted is sung..illuminated by the Pascal candle, the symbol of Christ’s light coming into the world.   There is one part of the prayer challenges me every year:

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

”I wish it could be me instead of her!” Gary’s expression of sacrificial loving, a willingness to die for Jennifer, helps me better understand the reason Jesus was willing to die for me, and why he cried. Jesus wept because he Loves… God loves us with an infinite love… God is Love…so Jesus can be sad…just like me!

The Fourth Weekend of Lent 2020

The Third Weekend of Lent 2020

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