5th Sunday Of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 29, 2020
Where is God in the midst of this worldwide Pandemic? What can we say about the presence of Jesus in this moment?
After the death of Lazarus, we are told that Jesus goes to visit them and to see his friends, including the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. When Mary sees Jesus, she responds, “Lord, if you had been here , my brother would not have died.” Mary is expressing that universal human cry in the deep sense of the absence of God when we are faced with realities of sickness and death. The seeming silence and absence of God.
As Jesus experiences the suffering and grief of his friends, we are told that he was greatly disturbed and that “Jesus began to weep.” We can say that God is disturbed and even weeps when in the midst of our human grief and fear and suffering.
So, what can we say about the presence of God in the face of this pandemic? When our experience includes the seeming silence and absence of God, that Jesus experienced on the Cross?
This Virus is not from God, it is not a punishment for sin, it is not some trial sent by God to test us. Rather, God is present in our midst, disturbed and even weeping with us. But, it does not end there.
Jesus says to them, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Death is not the end of our story. One of the very sad situations in this moment is the need to be separated from loved ones and from one another. In some locations, people have had to die separated from any loved ones. To be separated from those we love. This is a sort of death. It is connected to that death when we are separated from God. For Jesus, death and life have deeper meanings. Ultimate death without hope is the separation from God in mind and heart. Ultimate life is to be united to God in mind and heart.
This death is not the end, it leads us to fullness of life. God is walking with us in the suffering and struggles of this life. Even in seeming silence and absence. The mission of the Church is to help make the presence of Jesus heard and felt in such a time as this, through us. The voice of Jesus might only be heard by others through our phone call or message.
Our challenge is to find glimpses of life in this difficult situation. Is there anything we are seeing more clearly about our unity as one human family? As we are cut off from our church buildings and sacraments, are we finding ways to be the praying church in our homes? Are we seeing more clearly what really matters in this life?
When many of us are using this time to connect with friends and family, have we come to see that we had lost contact with many due to the usual busyness of our lives? In the silence and solitude that some of us are forced to live now, some of us may be able to enter more deeply into our hearts that are often covered over by our noisy, distracted lives. We all need to listen and watch very closely for the presence and voice of Jesus in the midst of this situation. In this pandemic crisis, we hear Jesus “the resurrection and the life.”
In the end, we are to live and express that we believe in the ultimate victory of life over death, the victory of love.