FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT – A 20
At this time, we might all “feel” like Lazarus in the tomb—neither here nor there. We too are waiting to be called forth from our seeming tombs of staying at home and of staying at a distance. It’s not that bad, however, considering the alternatives! This entombment crisis, however, should connect us with the deeper realities of death and resurrection, the meaning Christ gives to suffering, and the hope that springs eternal for those who love the Lord and repent of their sins. St. Therese says, “Everything is a grace.” Therefore, even this crisis of illness can be a source of grace. Every situation is a call to rise, a call to come out of our tombs, out of thinking incompatible with the goodness, love, compassion and mercy of God, and out of whatever sins are separating us from the One who loves us more than we could even love ourselves. Come out here and live, He calls to us. Look at the present crisis and all things with the true perspective given us by our faith.
Lent is a time when we give up things for the sake of gaining graces. Graces bring joy. We cannot live through crises without at least anticipated joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday was Laetare Sunday. “Rejoice” was its theme. The whole season of Lent is filled with joyful celebrations and scripture readings. The woman at the well was overjoyed at recognizing Christ as the Messiah. Likewise, the blind man who was made to see. Today, we hear of Lazarus’ being raised from the dead. Next Sunday we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and during the week, the joy of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. We look forward to the celebration of Easter and the fifty days of the Easter season with its encouraging call to live our own resurrection. Even in our trials there is always the joy of the Lord.
Those moments of joy in sorrow and sorrow in joy lead us to share with others what the Lord has done for us, namely,how he has lifted us up and gotten us through situations in which we felt helpless. St. John XXIII and St. Paul VI have taught us that witnessing to the Lord’s work in us is what it means to be missionary disciples. Our faith, if it is true faith, compels us to share our faith in the Lord. Our faith saves us from discouragement and just trying to hold on with our own strength. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
The church for a long time had focused on maintenance and the status quo rather than its mission to the nations. This age that we live in is facing a culture of modernity that sadly has forgotten or rejected where we came from, why we are here, what kind of person we should be, and the truths that answer those life questions. We must come out of our tombs of just maintaining our faith and face the world that needs evangelization.
This missionary spirit is something which St. John XXIII saw as the reason for the Vatican Council. Sadly, many missed this point. The document about the Church in the Modern World was a call to mutual enrichment of the world by the church and the church by the world. Unfortunately, the church in listening to the world’s message forgot it’s own vital message to the world. We have a unique message of faith that answers the questions of the modern world and the deepest desires in our hearts—answers that the modern world cannot come up with on its own.
After Vatican II, the church was derailed by some of the misinterpretations of the Council’s message and the hierarchy did not curtail what in many cases turned out to be travesties. This was compounded by the more recent clergy sexual abuse issue. We had to get our own house in order. There have been serious setbacks in accomplishing this, but we are, nevertheless, like the apostles at the Ascension, sent on a mission to the world by the one whose mission was to save us.
St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II later proclaimed that the whole point of Vatican II was the vision that the church is missionary by her very nature. This was implicit in the universal call to holiness in the documents of Vatican II. Friendship with Jesus Christ, the essence of our faith, is meant and demands to be, shared. We have freely received from the Lord, we must freely give.
Our willingness to share the Gospel of Christ with others is one crucial measure of the depth of our own commitment to Christ and to the truth Christ offers. We are to evangelize ourselves first, but we are all missionaries to others. Moreover, every human environment is a mission field. We are all mission, all the time. We need to share our faith with those who have an active faith, with those who have fallen away from the faith, and with those who have never known Christ. This is our very reason for existence as a church: to be a light to the world.
These crises in the culture and in the church are opportunities to share with others who we are as church. This is a moment to realize that there is greater crisis than the coronavirus crisis.
We must evangelize not only individual but the culture as St John Paul II told us in one of his encyclicals: the culture of the media, the feminist movement, environmental organizations, the world of science, and academic life in its various forms. This is simply to imitate St. Paul who preached to the Gentiles and tried to be all things to all men.
The Christian message is the answer to humanity’s most urgent questions. The church, of course, proposes; it does not impose. Its message must be freely embraced. It invites and accompanies with a message of the truth about humanity and the dignity of each individual and our destiny in Jesus Christ. This course of accompanying is not simply a neutral going along with those in need of friendship. It is a positive accompanying with the Christian message of hope and with the truth that Christ proclaims to us.
George Weigel in an essay identifies what kind of evangelization has been most successful. Those missionary disciples who have embraced the truth of Catholicism in all its fullness are ministering to the living church. Those missionary disciples who embrace “Catholic Lite” are ministering to the dying church.
To sum up: Everyone is a missionary; every human environment is a mission field; all mission, all the time.
Given by Rev. H. James Hutchins