Like most of you, I had no idea the circumstances under which I’d be writing this. Even two weeks ago, we thought our masses would continue on their regular schedule even if fewer of you could be there. Now we find ourselves under order to stay home and practice distancing in order to protect ourselves and one another. Our mass is being celebrated in an empty church and shared digitally with you. Many of you have sent us notes of appreciation and we are grateful and uplifted by them!
Today’s Scripture Readings have passages that can serve as prompts for reflection on where God is in our current reality. Since they are God’s Word, they bring hope and light, precious gifts that are sorely needed.
The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel where the LORD says that he will “open your graves and have you rise from them” is partly metaphorical, dealing with the future end of the Babylonian exile. But the notes of promise, restoration and God’s faithfulness are unmistakable. I say ”partly metaphorical” because in today’s Gospel reading an actual resurrection from the dead occurs when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave.
Friends, the pandemic through which we are living is scary, and on many levels. In addition to fear of the virus and for our own health, there is fear that we may lose someone we love. On top of that there is economic fear, fear of being cooped up, fear of things changing irrevocably, fear of shortage and scarcity, fear of civil unrest and any number of others. Where is God in this? He is right here, with us. The shortest verse in the Bible is in today’s gospel: “And Jesus wept” [at the death of his friend Lazarus, and at the pain of his family and friends].
On the other hand, there are many examples of courage and resilience, generosity and charity. If we are to be, as St. Teresa of Avila says, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; if we are to look with his eyes of mercy on the world, then are not these stories of first responders and healthcare professionals; of families sharing with those in more dire straits than their own; of scientists and civic leaders collaborating reasons for hope and even for joy? Are these not the Body of the Risen Christ ministering to the Body? And what is that if not light in darkness?
Psalm 130 from which this Sunday’s responsorial psalm is taken expresses this duality well:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
I trust in the LORD; my souls trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD.
For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; and he will redeem Israel.
When this pandemic has run its course and passes, and we are released from enforced isolation, as we first emerge and begin reordering our lives, maybe it will be a little like Lazarus emerging from the grave. And maybe we will live differently. Maybe we will be more patient, more grateful, more loving, and more attuned to God’s presence among us. May it be so.