Our Pastor’s Corner, April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Hurley_Easter_finalA sheath of sound shatters the silence: Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Huddled together with tapers lit, we delight in the Easter proclamation, the Exsultet, as it announces the mystery of our salvation. Uniquely chanted at the Easter Vigil, this great hymn lifts our minds and hearts to rejoice in Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Resurrection is astonishing. Easter begins with the Exsultet so that we might once again share the joyful surprise of the first disciples. Joy is the first fruit of Easter amazement.

I recently came across the Annual Gallup Poll report that surveys a wide swath of folks about daily life. One of the results which made me take notice was the response to the question: Do you find joy and satisfaction in your daily work? The result: only about 30% of people answered in the affirmative. Of the other 70%, some say that they are extremely unhappy in their life’s work, but most are simply indifferent, and “not actively engaged” in the work they do. These numbers made me reflect: Where do I find joy in my life? Certainly our first instincts reflected by our culture drive us to seek joy in pleasure, money, success and recognition. But deep down we know that these joys are fleeting. Real joy is precious, if not elusive, because it is not simply a feeling, but rather a delight in connecting with the One who created us and who knows what satisfies our deepest desires.

Pope Francis begins his most recent Apostolic Letter: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” This is the promise of Easter. Christ’s Resurrection is not simply the historical belief that Christ rose from the dead, but that we, too, will share in the life he now has. Easter proclaims that we have a future, and this proclamation is the source of our joy. In fact, Jesus summarizes his preaching and mission in terms of joy, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

If the Gallup Poll results show us that our lives are often full of burden and sorrow, the promise of Easter is joy. The JOYS of Easter is the recognition that Jesus Overcomes Your Sorrow. This is the good news which we need to hear, for sorrow slips into the fabric of our lives, sometimes even unawares. Consider the many daily sources of sorrow: difficulty forgiving, fearing the future, being stuck in a rut of selfish routine, the criticism of judgment and resentment, or the disappointment of failed hopes. Our life can be awash in silent and significant sorrows.

Christ’s Resurrection pierces the depths of these sorrows. It offers us the new life of Christ alive in our hearts. It is the invitation of a second chance at a fresh start. This does not mean that our lives are suddenly free from worry and fear. The JOYS of Easter encourage us to discover the wonder and blessings of the God who even in this moment loves you into existence.

I invite you this Easter season to renew your relationship with the Risen Lord. Be mindful of his presence, open your heart to his inspiration, and share the joys of his blessings with others. We all know well that the impressive crowds that pack our Easter Masses dwindle in the coming Sundays. If you’re among that Easter crowd, that’s ok. But know that you are welcome every Sunday. In fact, I guarantee that if you begin coming to Mass on a regular basis, you’ll begin to experience life in a more vibrant and spiritual way. When you embrace and begin to live your faith, you will know the joy of the Lord in your life. Too often, our faith is simply an idea and thus the joys of life are thin and meager. Though Easter begins with a blast of rejoicing, it will quickly fade to silence unless Christ’s joy fills our hearts. Living our faith awakens us to the joy of life.

Today we rejoice in Christ’s victory. Today we hear the glad refrain, “Christ is Risen.” And we respond, “Truly, He is Risen.” May His Resurrection be your joy. On behalf of the Dominicans brothers and staff at St Dominic’s, Happy Easter!

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

 

Easter Vigil – A Preview

Let’s talk about fire.

flames backgroundAt the very beginning of the Easter Vigil, we witness the blessing the Easter Fire.  Jesus is dead.  The Light of the World had been extinguished.  Yet, at the beginning of our liturgy, we see the blessing of the new light, and the lighting of the new candle.  And the fire of this candle is spread throughout the congregation (except the catechumens in most cases), so that we are able to symbolize Christ’s light shining within us.

The blessing of the candle is beautiful.   As Fr. Michael blesses the candle, he inserts the incense pins into the five wounds of Christ, in the form of a cross, praying:

Christ yesterday and today
the Beginning and the End
Alpha and Omega
all time belongs to him
and all the ages
to him be glory and power
through every age for ever.
Amen.

Once the Paschal Candle is lit, the light is given to the congregation, and slowly, the Light of Christ spreads throughout the world, so that the words of the Exultet ring true,

fire “Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.”

What is most dramatic and solemn is when the deacon holds the candle in front of the darkened Church and we hear the words, “Light of Christ”.  We see nothing but a darkened tomb behind him, yet here is this tall, white, decorated candle that is almost blinding in comparison.

When you come this evening, look around you as your find your seat.  See how the light and the light of your neighbors illuminate the inside of the Church.  …it’s a pretty cool effect.

We are called to be this very same light in our very same world.  We rely on the light that had been given to us—through Christ, our Pasch—and the light given off by our neighbors, in order to illuminate our darkened world. We cannot be the light without Christ, and we cannot be the light without our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We need each other, we have been given to each other, in order to keep our light burning brightly.  May the light we hold in our hands this evening be a sorry symbol for the saintly light that we are called to be.

See you tonight.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Good Friday Service – A Preview

Good-Friday-Wallpaper-04The beginning of the Good Friday service is a humble one.  The presider and his assistants process to the Church, and prostrates in front of a bare altar.

Such humility.

As a liturgical act, the prostration is a rare and powerful one.  In my experience, it is used only four times in the Church’s life, and in all four instances, it means the same exact thing.  It is used when a person receives the habit of the Dominican Order, when a person professes their vows to the Dominican Order, when man is ordained (to the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate), and most commonly, today.

130329132956-pope-good-friday-01-horizontal-galleryIn all four instances, the prostration symbolizes the same thing: self-denial.  I lay my will at the foot of the altar in order to obey the will of the One Who Calls.

When you attend the Good Friday service, the prostration is not only for the presider and his assistants.  By no means.  The prostration is done in the name and person of the entire congregation.  Through the instrumentality of the presider, the entire congregation prostrates.  We are all invited to lay our lives at the foot of the altar in order to obey the will of the One Who Calls.

The question is if we have ever truly prostrated in front of the altar.  Do we really die to self and live for Him?  Do we dare the Anointed One to die for us and be born in our hearts, minds and soul?  Do we throw our lives away and answer the One Who Calls?

Mass of the Lord’s Supper – A Preview

TheTriduumToday begins the Great Paschal Triduum.  At sunset, the great mystery of our redemption begins.  The reason the Word of God incarnated into a human being comes to fruition comes to us this very night.

The Paschal Triduum is one liturgical event. What the congregation will witness and partake between tonight, tomorrow (afternoon or) night, all through Saturday is one liturgical event.

11_04_16_passionOn Thursday evening, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins with the Sign of the Cross, and ends with adoration till a late hour, as Peter, John and James did that strange night so many years ago.  It is a night that begins with the Sign of the Cross, yet ends in silence.  Good Friday begins, in silence, with the prostration, and ends with the silence of venerating the cross of our redemption.  The Easter Vigil begins with the crackling of fire with the Fire of the New Light of Christ, and ends with the Sign of the Cross.  Like any other Mass throughout the year, it begins and ends with the Sign of the Cross.  The Paschal Triduum is one liturgical event.

You cannot have the Eucharist without the Cross, you cannot have the Cross without the Resurrection.  You cannot have Thursday Night without Good Friday afternoon without Sunday Morning.  It is one event.

So begins the Great Drama.  The Universe is tilted, Chaos veers his ugly head.  Be present, O Christian, to the Great Mystery.  Your God comes to redeem you.

foot_washing

Reflections on the Sacrament of Baptism, part III – Baptized for a Mission

Something happens at baptism.  We cannot empirically prove it. You cannot run an MRI or a CT and tell the difference between the baptized and the nonbaptized.  The water will dry, the candle is put out.  The white garments will be put away.

But something happened.

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

You were once in a life where your goal in life is your own happiness; and now your goal in life is to live the life of Jesus Christ—from the nativity to the ascension—in the here and now.  That all parts of your life are now called to be completely integrated, if not overwritten, by the life and will of Jesus Christ.

We are brought into a new relationship.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “As the Apostle says, all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in His death.  And further on he concludes, So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Hence it is clear that by Baptism man died unto the oldness of sin, and begins to live unto the newness of grace. (Part III, Q 69.1)

 BAPTIZED FOR A MISSION

After the baptism of children, they are usually anointed with the Sacred Chrism.  This is used three times during the year—baptism, confirmation, a priestly and episcopal ordination.  At all three times, a person is anointed for a particular mission.  The mission of the baptized is to be holy—to be a saint.

I remember the first time when I was told that this is our vocation–to be a saint.  I was taken aback—I had images of being zapped into a statue or a stained-glass window.  I had a presupposed notion of what holiness is, and it is not necessarily what the Second Vatican Council teaches.

v2navThe Council elucidates what holiness is on in one of its pillar documents.  The fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium is entitled “Universal Call to Holiness” reads:

41.  The forms and tasks of life are many but there is one holiness, which is cultivated by all who are led by God’s Spirit, and, obeying the Father’s voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and truth, follow Christ, poor and humble in carrying his cross, that they may deserve to be sharers in his glory.  All, however, according to their own gifts and duties must steadfastly advance along the way of a living faith, with arouses hope and works through love.”

First of all, living a life of holiness is Trinitarian.  We are led by the Spirit, obey the Father, and follow the Son.

Second, we obtain holiness through our own gifts and duties; via our charisms as given by the Holy Spirit, and through the duties of our particular state of life.

The document reads on, “Accordingly, all Christians, in the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives and through all these, will grow constantly in holiness if they receive all things with faith from the hand of the heavenly Father and cooperate with the divine will, making manifest in their ordinary work the love with which God has loved the world.” (LG 41.7)

Though in previous paragraphs, the document does make specific calls of holiness—like spouses should support each other in mutual love, that priests should remember that they belong to a fraternity of priests of the High Priest, Jesus Christ–the document does not go into any specifics on how holiness ought to look.  It acknowledges that we are all unique manifestations of God’s love, and thus, we obtain our holiness in differing ways.

Holiness is not necessarily going into ecstasy, or saying 20 mysteries of the rosary everyday, or reading the Bible cover to cover in a week…nothing overextraordinary.  Holiness is continually receiving and dispensing grace from God.  Receiving grace by attending to the sacraments—Mass and Confession Praying privately or communally, acting in self-denial—fasting, giving time, treasure and talent, doing corporal acts of mercy.

http://constructionlabor.com/construction-workers-and-laborers/Thus, our ‘ordinary work’ will lead us to holiness, as manifest in how we show our love for one another.  It’s by manifesting our love for one another that we obtain holiness.

From paragraph 42.1 “…But if charity is to grow…all of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out his will by what they do, with the help of his grace; they must frequently partake of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and take part in the liturgy; they must constantly apply themselves to prayer, self-denial, active sisterly and brother service and the practice of all the virtues.”

Holiness is not merely wasting time with God before and after Mass, not only going to adoration and reconciliation regularly—but doing acts of goodness, corporal acts of mercy.

 

https://thepadre10.wordpress.com/tag/baptism/Why did Jesus get baptized?

He got baptized in order to prefigure his Passion, Death and Resurrection.  But also to put himself in context with all of salvation history—Jesus, in getting baptized, found a way to submit himself to the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenants.  Thus, when Jesus initiated his own covenant—the covenant we remember every time we attend Mass—it is perfectly in line with all of God’s promises from the very beginning.

But it goes further.  Jesus was baptized in order to show us a way to be holy.  Our vocation as members of the Body of Christ is to be saints, pure and simple.  We aren’t told to be saints in one particular way, or in one particular language, or vocation, or country, or ecclesiastical rite…but to be called to be another Christ, and alter Christus, to be another Jesus, to be a Holy One of God.

Fra Angelico, OP St. Dominic & Christ

Fra Angelico, OP
St. Dominic & Christ

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

 

Music for Holy Week & Easter

Guest Post: Simon Berry

TheTriduumOn Holy Thursday we will be singing music based on the chant Ubi Caritas, the hymn set for the offertory of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  The parish has been using a Mass setting based on this chant for the whole Lenten season and all will be familiar with the melody.   The gentle motets Ubi Caritas and Tantum Ergo by 20th century French composerMaurice Duruflé will set the tone for this mass.  We will also be singing the newly composed Mandatum by Peter Latona (Of the National Shrine in DC).  This is a setting of texts from the Missal for the Washing of the Feet.  Instead of organ music before Mass the choir will sing an arrangement of the spiritual, By and By and Tallis’s If Ye Love Me.

 For Good Friday’s noon service of reflections, we will presenting the Seven Choral reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ, commissioned and written for St. Dominic’s in 2010 by Robert Chastain.

Good-Friday-Wallpaper-04 For the 1:45 pm and 7:30 pm Passion Liturgies, we will sing the motet Take him Earth for Cherishing  (1964), by Herbert Howells and five motets from his Requiem of 1936.

The Easter Vigil (8.30 pm) and the Solemn Mass of Easter Day (11:30 am) will feature another St. Dominic’s commissioned work, the motet Alleluia by David Conte (b. 1955), written for us in 2009.

On Easter Sunday we will sing a new motet just written this year for our Schola Cantorum by local composer Joseph Stillwell (b. 1984)  The text is from the Offertory chant for Easter (Terra Tremuit) and the motet is scored for choir and solo trumpet.  All this, plus a Mass setting by Haydn, will help create a joyous Easter spirit!

Holy Week Schedule at St. Dominic’s

Palm Sunday, 4/13
5:30 p.m.              Vigil Mass (Saturday, 4/12)
7:30 a.m.              Quiet Mass9:15 a.m.              Palm Sunday Procession with Donkey.
N.B. start time
         Meet by the Lourdes Grotto at 9:15 a.m.
Family Mass follows in Church.

11:30 a.m.             Solemn Choral Mass
1:30 p.m.              St. Jude Pilgrim Mass in Spanish
5:30 p.m.              Mass with Contemporary music
9:00 p.m.              Mass by candlelight

Holy Thursday, 4/177:30 a.m.              Tenebrae – followed by breakfast
7:30 p.m.              Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Good Friday, 4/187:30 a.m.              Tenebrae – followed by breakfast
12:00 p.m.            Seven Last Words of Christ
Seven reflections on the last words of Christ with specially composed choral music
1:45 p.m.              The Celebration of The Passion of the Lord
A simple version with read Passion Gospel
3:00 – 4:30 p.m.    Confessions
5:00 p.m.              Stations of the Cross
Especially suited to Families
7:30 p.m.              The Celebration of The Passion of the Lord
A solemn version with chanted Passion Gospel
Holy Saturday, 4/198:00 a.m.              Tenebrae – followed by breakfast
8:30 p.m.              The Easter Vigil

No confessions this day.

Easter Sunday, 4/207:30 a.m.              Mass with Easter Hymns
9:30 a.m.              Family Mass

11:30 a.m.             Solemn Choral Mass
1:30 p.m.              St. Jude Pilgrim Mass in Spanish
5:30 p.m.              Mass with Contemporary music

9:00 p.m.              Mass by Candlelight

No confessions this day.

Our Pastor’s Corner, April 13, 2014, Palm Sunday

As followers of Christ, this is the most important week of the year. Beginning with the pageantry and processions of Palm Sunday and ending with the stark quiet of Holy Saturday, the Church gives us an opportunity, through a wide array of liturgical celebrations, to retrace the path that Christ himself traveled in his final days. All of our Lenten projects and penances have prepared us for this moment: for now we embark on a journey in which we encounter the power and presence of Christ’s unconditional love. As this week unfolds, we do well to reflect daily on the last events of Christ’s life, for it is by this reflection that we open ourselves to the graces of the season.

entryjerusalem1-APalm Sunday. The feast of the Passover is near. Jerusalem is bursting with all those who have come from far and wide to celebrate the remembrance of their Exodus from Egypt and to look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Amid the bustling preparation, some wonder if the Teacher will come for the Passover. He does not disappoint. The crowds spot Jesus while he is still a way off, riding on a colt (as Isaiah prophesied Is 62:11), and they give him a royal welcome, They spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road (Mt 21:8). And all the while they cried, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord (Mt 21:9). As he enters Jerusalem, Jesus is acclaimed as the Son of David, the king who is to restore the prosperous kingdom that David enjoyed 1,000 years earlier. But not all share in this joyful proclamation, and they try to silence the crowd. Jesus responds, I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out! The King has entered the holy city. But Jesus is not the sort of king that the people expect: he does not liberate them from the hated Roman occupation. This king comes to conquer sin and death with the weapons of service, obedience and love, love unto death.

downloadHoly Monday-Wednesday. After his royal entry, Jesus spends much of the next three days teaching and preaching in the Temple, and he enters the Temple with a splash.Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in buying and selling there. He overturned tables, seats and even fashioned a whip to aid in this cleansing. My house shall be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves. It was a direct attack against the Sadducees, the priestly class, who had a monopoly on all liturgical transactions and dealings. For the Sadducees this effrontery was the final straw. The chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him. The crowds are spellbound by his teaching and he continues to teach them at length, to confound the traps of the Pharisees (the theologians), and even prophesy his death and resurrection. But on Wednesday, the chief priests get a break: Judas Iscariot, who was disillusioned with Christ, conspires with them to betray his teacher. The scene is set for the end of the week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHoly Thursday-Saturday. Knowing that the hour of betrayal is near and as part of the Passover ceremonies, Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples. By washing the feet of the apostles, he reveals that his authority and his mission are rooted in the loving obedience of service. Further, in the institution of the Eucharist, he shows the depths of his love for he never abandons his followers but is always present to us in this Sacrament. It is with this same love that Jesus allows himself to go through his Passion and Death. Amid the betrayal of Judas and the denials of Peter, amid the brutal scourging and the mockery, amid the pain and suffering of humiliating crucifixion, we see the horrors of sin and the love that Christ has for us in offering His life so that he can then offer us forgiveness and mercy. His mission is clear: to make all things new whatever the cost. By entering into the events of this Holy Week our lives are transformed. For those who perseveringly trod shoulder–to-shoulder with Christ through the joys and sorrows, the love and agony of this Holy Week find themselves transformed with him by the power of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Reflections on the Sacrament of Baptism, part II – “Fulfilling all righteousness”

Last time, we contemplated the question, “Why did Jesus get baptized?”  We continue our contemplation by wondering what the phrase “to fulfill all righteousness” means.

The Baptism of the Lord, Fra. Angelico, OP

The Baptism of the Lord, Fra. Angelico, OP

Matthew 3:13-15

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.”

The keys to understanding what Jesus is saying to John—and why John is obedient to Jesus—lies in the word ‘righteousness’ and the Jewish priesthood.

(Disclosure: I not have a degree in scripture studies.  I am not, as such, qualified to teach about the sacraments at the University level.  These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone.  Forgive me if I lead you astray.)

There are two lines of priests—Aaronic, and Levitical.

The Aaronic is from Aaron, the brother of Moses.  Moses ordained him and his family to preside over sacrifices and other cultic occasions. There is also the Levitical priesthood, from the tribe of Levi.

When the Chosen People claimed the Holy Land, the Tribe of Levi did not receive a portion of the Holy Land; rather, they were entitled to certain fruits of the land for their cultic service for the people of God.

John’s father, Zechariah, is a priest from the division of Abijah of the clan of Levi, Elizabeth is from the tribe of Aaron.

http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/why-does-john-the-baptist-have-wings-in-orthodox-icons/Because the Jewish priesthood is hereditary, John is a priest—from both sides.

Not only is John the greatest prophet of Israel’s history, he is also, by heritage, a priest on both sides—thus, when John proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God”, he is the first priest of the Old Covenant to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, and High Priest.

The priests of the Jewish Law—as they are in the Christian Law—are the keepers of the Covenant.
The priests are the ones that invoke the Holy Name of God on the Day of Atonement. They are the ones who handle the sacrifices in the Temple.  They are the ones who speak to God on the behalf of the People of God.

It is the priest—both in the Old and New Law—that are the intermediaries between God and His Chosen People.  Moreover, we remember the terms ‘righteousness’.  In the Torah, the righteous are men and women who are faithful to God’s promises.

SacrificeAbraham  http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/why-does-john-the-baptist-have-wings-in-orthodox-icons/Abraham is considered the righteous one.  Ironically, he doesn’t have a good track record—in Genesis, he twice told his wife to deny that they are married, he cast off Hagar the mother of Ishmael.  Nonetheless, he is called righteous because he was faithful to God’s promises.

He never gave up on the notion that a son will be born from him and Sarah and that this son will be the father of nations.

Abraham is called righteous because he is faithful to the promises that God had given him.

So when Jesus says to his cousin, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”, Jesus is doing two things at the same time.

1)      Jesus is submitting himself to all of the Covenants that have been made between the Father and the Chosen People.  Jesus is making himself righteous in the Abrahamic sense—he is submitting his will in order to be obedient to the Abrahamic Covenant in the Mount, the Mosaic Covenant at Sinai, and the Davidic Covenant as spoken by Nathan the Prophet in Jerusalem.  Thus, when Jesus initiates his own Covenant—the Passion, Death, and Resurrection—it is in-line and in the context of the other Covenants made between the Father and the His Chosen Ones.

2)      The priesthood.  It passes from a tribe to a person, Jesus Christ.  The Aaronic and Levitical priesthood—of which John is a member of both via heritage—is flowing from John, the prophet and priest par excellance of the Old Law—into his cousin, the High Priest and Great Prophet of the New Law.

Again, these are my contemplations on the aforesaid topics.  My own prayer and research has gone into these pages, but they are not ex cathedra as such.  I am open and willing to receive any corrections from a proper authority.

We will continue our contemplation on the Sacrament of Baptism, asking what do our ruminations mean for you and me in 2014?

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – 5th Sunday of Lent

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 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, “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.” 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. (John 11:3-45)

 

Tears. Weeping. Mourning. Our story begins with Jesus’ late arrival after Lazarus has already died. At first glance, this timing seems curious. If Bethany is only 2 miles away from Jerusalem, why does Jesus wait 4 days until after Lazarus is buried before he makes the journey?

Two spiritual principles emerge from this curious delay. First, Jesus’ lateness provides the opportunity to manifest his divine power. If he had raised Lazarus from his death bed immediately, the skeptic might wonder if Lazarus was truly dead. Waiting 4 days after burial removes any doubt of the authenticity of the ensuing miracle. In fact, the same folks who seek Jesus’ life also threaten Lazarus once he is raised from the dead, because Lazarus’ living presence is a witness to Christ’s power. Second, Jesus’ delay reveals God’s attitude toward suffering and death. In the face of his loss, “Jesus wept” (11:35). Jesus’ tears teach us that mourning is not simply a human emotion, but also God’s first response to death.

Death was not an original part of God’s plan for us. Death is the consequence for sin, and Jesus’ reaction reminds us of the profundity of God’s love (e.g., the verb, turbatio, which St. John uses to describe Jesus’ state of mind in this moment is the same verb that is used to describe the storm which Jesus calms on the Sea of Galilee). Even though Jesus knows that he will raise Lazarus from the dead, death stirs a storm in his soul, his heart is “churned up,” and he grieves. And in this grief he gives us permission to mourn our own losses, to recognize that death is not what God wants for us and lets us glimpse the unfathomable depths of God’s compassion.

But this is not the end. Jesus’ tears are not without effect. Love is stronger than death. Approaching the grave, Jesus lifts up his gaze to the Father, gives thanks and cries out to Lazarus, “Come out!” Life emerges from grave. As Lazarus emerges from the grave, the act brightly foreshadows Christ’s own resurrection. Just as Lazarus is unfettered from his burial shroud, so we too live in the promise that Christ has the power to lose our sins, to reconcile us with our loving Father, and to raise us to eternal life. This is the hope which allows us to continue with whatever struggles burden our Lenten journey and to persevere in following Christ who is our way, truth and life. For those who believe, the daily veil of tears forms the river which leads to our heavenly harbor.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.