‘Yes, Lord, I Do Believe’, Fifth Sunday of Lent (A), April 10, 2011

Fr. Roger J. Landry

St. Theresa’s Parish, Sugar Land, TX

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

April 10, 2011

Ezek 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45

The following text guided this homily:

YES, LORD, I DO BELIEVE

  • “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies, will live and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”
    • Today Jesus asks his friend Martha this question in the Gospel and he also asks each of us here.
    • Jesus was asking Martha in the midst of one of the most painful moments of her life. Her beloved brother Lazarus had died four days prior. She was still mourning, surrounded by a crowd. Her sister Mary was still mourning at home, too upset even to come out. It now seemed like a hopeless situation for her brother. Jews at the time believed that the soul of a dead person somehow remained with the body for three days. After three days the soul departs finally from the body never to return, and that is when corruption set in. Lazarus had already been dead for four days. But with Jesus, she discovered there is no hopeless situation. In the midst of all her pain, she responded to Jesus’ question with great faith: “Yes, Lord, I do believe.” She didn’t stop there. She affirmed why she believed: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Because of her belief in him, she believed in what he said, even when he said that her dead brother would rise again. Her faith in the Lord Jesus, as we see later in the passage, would not be in vain.
  • Jesus’ statement about who he is and his question to us are a good way for us to begin this parish Lenten mission. This mission is a privileged opportunity for us to renew our faith in Jesus and deepen our friendship with him.
  • We hope to do so with the help of one of the greatest witnesses of faith and friendship with Jesus certainly of recent centuries and maybe of all time, Pope John Paul II. In just three weeks, he will be beatified. As part of the process leading to his being declared blessed, there was an investigation of his entire life and everything he ever wrote. One of the conclusions of that investigation — as it is for everyone who is beatified and canonized — is that he lived a life of faith to an heroic degree.
    • When he was still only an eight year old boy, his mother died; when he was 12, his only brother Edmund died; when he was 20, his father died. On each of these bitter occasions, Jesus in essence said to him, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. … Do you believe this?” And the young Karol Wojtyla responded with faith, entrusting his loved ones to the Lord, and deepening his friendship with the Lord himself.
    • When the Nazis overran Poland and were brutally killing and oppressing the people, it would have been easy for young Karol to despair, as so many of his contemporaries did. But he reaffirmed his faith in Jesus, the Light of the World, in the midst of all the darkness of National Socialism.  He grew in faith participating in a Living Rosary movement and through the Rhapsodic theater in which he and others tried to keep the fruits of Polish Catholic culture alive. These were both heroic acts because the paranoid Nazis had made it almost impossible for people to come together to pray and to perform. But with faith, he and his companions courageously soldiered on.
    • When he discovered in prayer, much to his surprise, that the Lord was calling him to be a priest at that time, even though the Nazis had prohibited anyone from entering the seminary, he boldly entrusted himself and his life to the Lord, entering the clandestine seminary being conducted illegally at the residence of the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Sapieha. Working during the day at a chemical plant as a day laborer, he read philosophy during his breaks and tried, quietly, to pass on the light of the faith to his fellow workers who were being broken by the hard work and the even harder conditions of the country.
    • Eventually, as a priest, bishop and cardinal, he continued to reaffirm after the Soviets had taken over his country and were trying to recruit him, then entrap him, and when they failed, to defeat him. But he continued prudently and valiantly on, confident that the Lord who defeated sin and death would sustain him against the communist atheistic menace.
    • Finally as pope so many times he had to reaffirm his faith in Jesus. When he was elected and asked whether he would accept to become the successor of St. Peter, he replied, “With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.” Later when he was shot, he reaffirmed his faith that God, the Lord of life, had a plan. When he was suffering with Parkinson’s at the end such that this once great actor lost even the ability to speak and to make gestures, he continued to witness for us all a great gift of faith.
    • His entire life, as the future Pope Benedict said so beautifully at his homily, was a response to the question, “Do you believe this?” His entire life was an affirmation of Christ, the Resurrection and the Life.
  • My own interaction
    • I had the great privilege and grace in life to have gotten to observe John Paul II’s faith up close. I was very fortunate to have been sent by then Bishop, now Cardinal, Sean O’Malley to prepare for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome, and during my five-plus years of study, I had the incredible privilege to study, pray and live a stone’s throw from this living rock on whom Christ was continuing to build up his Church. I had the chance to be with him to celebrate Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, to be with him at catechetical audiences, Masses and speeches, to rejoice with him at many beatifications and canonizations, to accompany him in the streets during Corpus Christi Processions, pray the Rosary with him before images of Our Lady in the Vatican Gardens. I also had the chance to meet him. Meeting him once would have been the thrill of a lifetime. Meeting him twice would have been much more than I could have ever merited or dreamed. But I had the chance 11 times to meet him personally and talk with him. Id’ like to share a few things from some of those meetings with you, because I think they help to describe the humanity of this man of great faith and why I love him and am so excited that he’s about to be beatified.
    • The first time was a few months into my first theology year. I had written the pope’s personal secretary, then Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, on behalf of a couple from Houston (of all places!) to see if it would be possible for them to attend Mass with the Holy Father. There was a mix-up at the Papal Apartment, however, and the Maltese Sister at the Vatican switchboard called to say, the day that the couple flew back to the United States, that they were to report to the bronze doors the following morning for the private Mass with the Holy Father. I explained to the Sister the situation and — putting out into the deep with a little bit of trepidation  — asked whether, considering there were now two open spots, whether my twin brother and I would be able to come to the Mass. My identical twin, Scot, was a first theologian for the Diocese of Bridgeport at the NAC as well. The sister said she would have to check with Msgr. Dziwisz, but called back in 15 minutes to say that that would be okay. So we attended the Mass at the end of which we went into the large papal library where we lined up around the periphery waiting for the Pope to come to greet everyone individually. Scot and I were staying toward the end of the line, in our identical cassocks, our identical glass frames and our identical short haircuts. Msgr. Dziwisz kept looking in direction as he came — which is something, I have to confess, that Scot and I were used to as identical twins, wherever we go. When he got to us, the papal secretary said, “Siete veramente gemelli,” “You guys are really twins,” which is something the Holy Father picked up on as well. It was frankly difficult to be holding the hands of the Holy Father as he continued to go from one face to another to see if there were any means by which he could tell us apart. He began to ask us a few questions about where we were from and whether we had other family members. Then he asked whether we ever played tricks on our rector, seminary professors, fellow students and bishops. It was a direct question in the presence of the successor of St. Peter, so Scot and I, blurted out together, “sempre!” The fact that identical twins answered the same question in the exact way at exactly the same time made the Holy Father, Msgr. Dziwisz and all the others who understood Italian all begin to laugh with us. The Holy Father tapped us on the cheeks, said “Bravi” and then “gemelli americani” and moved on. But it was a really providential occurrence, because while the Pope and his secretary normally would meet a multitude of visitors every day that no one could possibly keep track of, because of the rarity of the spectacle and a funny first impression, they did know who the “gemelli americani” were. Even after Scot ended up discerning to leave the seminary and eventually get married, I continued to introduce myself whenever I’d write to the household as one of the American twins and they’d regularly ask about how my twin brother was doing.
    • One of the most touching times I met him was when I was able to introduce my parents to him a few months after my priestly ordination. My parents would come every February when the plane fares were cheap in order to visit and ostensibly celebrate my birthday. Every year I’d write the household to see if it were possible for a Mass, and each year I would get a courteous reply that there were too many bishops or other in town and that it wasn’t possible. We struck out the first four years. In the meantime I had been up there several more times with other guests, but never with my folks. So when they were coming the last time, I sent the letter to then Archbishop Dziwisz, recounting how we’ve tried in the past to no avail and asking if this year it would be possible. Because it was February of the Jubilee Year of 2000, and so many guests were coming to town, I thought the odds were infinitesimal. So I decided to take a gamble in the letter, based on the Gospel, and see if Msgr. Dziwisz, who like the Pope had a great sense of humor, would respond. In the last paragraph, I began to gently plead with him, saying that, for all her wonderful qualities, really is the personification of the importune woman in the 18th Chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel and that unless some way were found possible for my parents and me to attend the Mass with the Holy Father, I feared that she would never let him or hear the end of it! If he didn’t take the joke well, I figured, at least he couldn’t quash my priestly ordination! I faxed the letter on it and dropped it by the apartment. Two days later I was called by the Maltese sister at the switchboard. “Non è possible,” she said, “It’s not possible for us to attend the Mass.” My heart sunk a little, but I was about to thank her, when I heard her giggling. I asked her what was funny. She said, “Well, Eccelenza, meaning Archbishop Dziwisz said that you and your parents could come to a special audience with a Polish cultural group on Febraury 20 and you could introduce them to the Holy Father then. When the time arrived, and Archbishop Dziwisz recognized me and my parents at the end of the line, he came by, told me,. “Ci è piaciuto molto la tua carta.” “We really liked your letter,” then he said he wanted to meet this “donna dipreghiera, di fede, ed di insistenza,” “woman of prayer, faith and perseverance — my mother had no idea of what I put in the letter — and then told us we would have a few minutes after all the members of the group had finished to meet the Holy Father. He told me that we would not be in a rush. The Holy Father greeted us warmly, thanked my parents for raising and giving the Church a priest, and asked them several other questions. I glanced over at my father — a real man’s man — and saw that he was crying. Toward the end I told the Holy Father that my folks were celebrating their 30th anniversary and asked whether it would be possible for them to receive a special blessing. “Volontieri!,” or “willingly” he said. Then he turned to me — this was the first time I had seen him after my priestly ordination — and said, “Ed adesso un bendizione per l’altro nuovo padre della famiglia!” “And now a blessing for the other, new father of the family!” There was something  really moving about his own spiritual paternity right, and how he was calling me to exercise it.
    • Before returning to the States in June of 2000, I asked whether it would be possible to come to concelebrate the Pope’s private Mass. It was granted and Archbishop Dziwisz asked me to proclaim the Gospel. After Mass I went up to the Pope, who now because of his frailty was receiving those after Mass while seated on a chair, and let him know I was returning home. He asked me what I would be doing, and I told him that I was going to be working with Portuguese immigrants and with young people as a high school chaplain. He smiled and said, “Giovani!,” young people. I asked him if he had any advice: he told me, “let them know you love them.” He asked about my twin brother and I told him I was preparing to celebrate his wedding in ten days. “Tell him and his new wife, congratulations!,” he replied in English. Then, anticipating it might be my last time meeting him, I told him with tears that I really hoped to be able to spend my priestly life helping to propagate his teachings on human love through the Theology of the Body. I was holding his hands at this point. He squeezed my hands and said, looked me in the eyes and said, “Grazie!” I’ve never forgotten that. He was thanking me — as I was thanking him with all my being. There was a picture taken at the moment I was holding his hands and because of the reflection, I think, off my watch, there was a burst of light coming from our hands. That’s always been my mother’s favorite picture to send around to all the relatives… I asked for his prayers for the mission of proclaiming the Gospel of human love. “Certo,” he said with a smile, “Certainly,” and then he told me he wanted to give me his blessing, and did. I’ve always taken that as a kind of commissioning, not just from the author of the Theology of the Body but from the Vicar of Christ.
    • The last time I met him was about seven months before he died. I was guiding a pilgrimage by the Acton Institute to Rome and we received the opportunity to meet the Holy Father after one of the Wednesday audiences. I brought the group around the chair at which was sitting and Archbishop James Harvey introduced us as a group to him briefly. He looked at me and said, “Gemello Americano.”  I knelt down on the side of his chair as we were preparing for the photographers from L’Osservatore Romano and Felici’s to take their photos. As the cameras were snapping, I felt someone put his hand on my head. While still faking a smile, I inwardly was wondering what idiot on my group was trying to goof off during photos with the Holy Father. I anticipated that the person was probably making V-signs and all types of other irreverent gestures. The photos stopped. And I began to get up to give a teacher’s stare at the malefactor. But when I turned around, I noticed that the hand was a attached to a white cassock. Stunned at the identity of the joker, and dumbfounded about how a man stricken with Parkinson’s would have even been able to reach me where I was kneeling, I simply blurted out, doubtless breaking all types of protocol, “Santità, che ha significato quello?” “Holiness, what did that mean?” He looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Un giorno saprai.” “One day you’ll know.” I kissed his ring for the last time and left. I still haven’t figured out what that meant. My priest friends all joke that it was a paternal gesture to pray that my dead hair follicles receive a miraculous resurrection — that the Pope was using me as a type of clerical chia-pet — but since that time there has been no new papally-induced hair growth, so we’re going to need another miracle for his beatification. Deep down inside, I’ve always prayed and hoped that, in the gesture of a laying on of hands, I, like Elisha from Elijah, was receiving a portion of John Paul II’s great faith in Jesus Christ and a double-portion of his strength, courage and zeal to pass it on.
    • I’ve sought to spend my priesthood trying to make John Paul II’s teachings better known and loved, as, with his intercession from the Father’s house, I hope to do during these days together with you in beautiful Sugar Land.
  • Today’s Gospel
    • Let’s look together briefly at what this great model of faith teaches us about today’s Gospel.
    • In 1993, in response to Jesus’ statement and question, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. … Do you believe this?,” John Paul II said: “Today the Lord makes this question to each of us.” He said that all of us together respond each Sunday in the Creed, when we say “I believe in the resurrection of the body” and “I believe in the life of the world to come.” But he said that very often these remain just concepts for us. Rather, he said, we’re called not just to believe in these realities but in Jesus, who not only delivers these realities but is these realities. Martha, though she believed in the future resurrection and eternal life for her brother,  didn’t yet realize that the resurrection and life was standing before her! Many times we don’t realize that he’s standing before us, that he’s with us in our tabernacles and on the altar, that he listens and speaks to us in prayer, that he wishes to do in us something just as great as he did for Lazarus.
    • By his action in raising Lazarus from the dead, John Paul II said at the parish of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Rome in 1999, Jesus fulfilled what God promised us through the prophet Ezekiel in today’s first reading: “You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live,” the Spirit that would revivify dry, dead bones. And this Spirit, John Paul II continued, is exactly what  St. Paul was talking about in today’s second reading when he said, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.”
    • John Paul II wanted all of us to give the Holy Spirit permission to give life to our mortal bodies. This is something Jesus wants to give us not just later when we physically die, but now, in life. It’s what he wants to give us this Lent. It’s what he wants to give us during this parish mission.
    • John Paul II said in Chile in 1987: “It could be said that when Jesus of Nazareth … stops at the tomb of his friend and raises him from the dead, he is thinking about each person, about us. St. John tells us at the beginning of the passage today that Jesus “loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus” and later, seeing him so moved, the crowd exclaimed “look how much he loved him!” Well, John Paul II stressed that Jesus loves each of us with the same love. Just as he went to Bethany for them, so he comes to Sugar Land for us. He wants all of us to enter in his resurrection and life through the power of His Holy Spirit. That’s what this parish mission will be all about, to allow Jesus to bring us all fully alive, to give him permission to help us to live a truly risen life in which we seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. John Paul II spent his entire priestly life and pontificate trying to help us do just that.
    • The greatest theme of his pontificate was given to us in his first encyclical on Christ the Redeemer of Man, in which he emphasized that it’s only in Christ that our life will be fulfilled. “Christ fully reveals the human person to himself and makes his supreme vocation clear,” he said, quoting the Second Vatican Council. Christ reveals who God is, who we are, and who we’re called to become. God is love, we have been made in his image and likeness, and therefore we are called fully to receive his life and share it. The human person, he said, can only find himself through the unselfish gift of himself to others,” John Paul II repeated throughout his pontificate, through loving others as he has been loved by God. This is the key to understanding all John Paul II lived and taught.  He said in the encyclical the Redeemer of Man that “we must constantly aim at Him  who is … the resurrection and the life.” “In spite of all the enigmas, the unsolved riddles, the twists and turns of ‘human destiny’ in the world of time, … in spite of all the riches of life in time, [beyond] …  the frontier of death … we see Christ, [who says] “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me…shall never die.” The key to Christian life is always to contemplate Christ, to keep him before our eyes, to follow him as he seeks to guide us beyond the frontier of death and the sin that leads to death.
  • In our encounter with Lazarus, Martha and Mary today, we can see a glimpse of all the rest of the themes of our mission over the course of the week:
    • Tomorrow [Monday] we will focus in a sense on Jesus’ words, “The Master is here and calling you.” Jesus is in fact here with us and he’s calling us, calling us to follow him, calling us ultimately to be holy as God is holy, to love like he loves.
      • When we think of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the Church now has given them all the most important prefix anyone could ever obtain, more important than doctor, or president, or father, or mother, or MVP or Nobel Prize Winner. It’s saint. We celebrate St. Lazarus on December 17, St. Mary on July 22 and St. Martha on July 29. None of them was an apostle, but all of them, in the midst of their ordinary life, was a true friend of Jesus, which is the secret of sanctity.
      • Over the course of John Paul II’s pontificate, he not only proclaimed what the Second Vatican Council called the “universal call to holiness,” that all of us are called to be saints, but reinvigorated the entire Church’s pastoral plan to focus on holiness. He gave very practical advice on how you and I, no matter what our state of life, no matter what our profession, no matter what our age, are called to intimate communion with the Blessed Trinity and to the perfection of love.
      •  Over the course of his pontificate, John Paul II beatified 1,338 men and women, boys and girls, and canonized 482 — more than all of his predecessors for the previous several centuries combined. He wanted to show that not just that bishops, priests, women religious and blood martyrs can become saints, but also married couples, plumbers, housewives, students, even young kids can truly have the risen life of Jesus become fully alive in them.
      • Jesus desires to give us not just continued life in this world, but as we see in the Gospel, to give us eternal life. John Paul II said in 1987 in Chile, that in the case of Lazarus “We’re not dealing here only with resuscitating him, of restoring to him life on the earth. We’re dealing, above all, with the resurrection to eternal life in God, a real participation in the resurrection of Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit” (1987, Chile).
      • That’s something that the Church is preparing to say on May 1 in the case of John Paul II.
      • That’s something that God wants to say about each of us. On Monday, we will focus on the practical steps Pope John Paul II proposes for all of us to become holy so that one day we may share his friendship in heaven, with Saints Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Therese of Lisieux and all the saints.
    • “Jesus began to weep” — St. John tells us that Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus and over what brought death in our world, sin. Likewise, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, because it failed to recognize how to obtain the peace he had come into the world to bring through the forgiveness of sins and seek that reconciliation.
      • Likewise, Jesus weeps for so many of us. He weeps for our sins, but he wants his tears to become the living water that washes us clean in the Sacrament of his Merciful Love.
      • John Paul II said about this scene in 1993: “The tears of Jesus reveal, so to speak, God’s tears, his paternal tenderness, his merciful judgment before that most profound and tragic death of man which is sin, of which his physical death is a consequence. As St. Paul said, ‘the wages of sin’ is death. Christ weeps and prays for each sinner, so that he may be freed from the burial cloths that imprison him and might leave the tomb to return to life, so that he might have life”
      • Just like Jesus called Lazarus to come forth from the tomb, so Jesus calls each of us to leave the death of sin behind. He wants to untie whatever binds us and to help us to experience a true newness of life, just as Lazarus would have after the four days in the tomb.
      • On Tuesday night, we’ll discuss John Paul II’s  history changing promotion of divine mercy and vigorous encouragement for all Catholics to receive that mercy often in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The expression famous on the image of divine mercy, “Jesus, I trust in you!” is just another way of saying, with Martha, “Yes, Lord, I do believe!”
      • On Tuesday we’ll tackle the true power of Jesus’ healing tears. Just as the weeping Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead, so his tears also seek to raise us from the death of sin. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus has the Father say, “My son was dead and has been brought to life again.” That’s what happens in the Sacrament of Confession. Every reconciliation is a resurrection! That’s one of the reasons why it makes so much sense that Jesus founded the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Easter Sunday evening, when he breathed the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, told them that just as the Father had sent him to take away the sins of the world so he was sending, and told them “those whose sins you forgive are forgiven; those whose sins you retain are retained.”
      • The truth is that many of us have not yet been fully resurrected from the tomb. We’re not yet living fully by the Holy Spirit, but instead still live according to the flesh. Sin abounds today on every corner, throughout the media, in music, on television, in the papers, in our homes. Jesus stands in front of us and wants to yell to us, “Come out!” Come out of your indifference! Leave your sloth, your selfishness, your dissipation, your desperation behind. Just like St. Thomas and the other apostles said today, “Let us go to die with him!,” each of us is called with the Lord to die to our sins, to convert in order to rise with him as new creatures, purified by his blood and from the forgiveness he gives us through the Church. This is what we’ll be developing on Tuesday.
    • On Wednesday, we will speak about the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were Jesus’ true friends. They welcomed him in their home. Mary sat at his feet and later anointed them with almost a year’s salary’s worth of precious aromatic nard. Martha prepared him meals. Lazarus likely was working to provide the money for these meals and precious ointment!
      • Every home is likewise supposed to be a Bethany where Jesus is welcomed, served, listened to and loved. Each home is supposed to be a place in which the “better part” is chosen, and Jesus is that better part. John Paul II spent his pontificate trying to help every family become a holy family, modeled on the holy family of Bethany, on the holy family of Nazareth, and ultimately on the communion of persons in love who are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On Wednesday, we’ll speak about John Paul II’s beautiful teachings on the family, on martial love, on marriage, on sexuality, on children. We’ll examine his insights about how to pass on the faith more effectively to our children. We’ll see what he teaches about the family when one or more of the members of the family gets old and ill. In the whole history of the Church, we’ve never had anyone write so much, so deeply, so beautifully about so many aspects of family life. If you’d like his help to help your family grow together in holiness, please make sure to come on Wednesday.
    • Finally on Thursday, we’ll discuss a theme very dear to Pope John Paul II, spreading the faith. We see in the Gospel that after Lazarus had come forth from the tomb, after he shared anew in the life of Jesus, he became a witness of Jesus in the midst of the world. He was such an effective witness that those who opposed Jesus also began to oppose him. He proclaimed not just with his lips but with his resuscitated life that Jesus is the Resurrection and was an embodiment of the truth that anyone who believes in Jesus, even though he dies, will live
      • John Paul II was likewise a herald of the Risen Jesus and the life to which he calls us. One of the most important priorities of his pontificate was the “new evangelization,” raising to life the faith of so many Catholics and Catholic areas of the world where it has basically died.  The New Evangelization was something John Paul II preached about incessantly. It was something he challenged all Catholics — young and old, lay, religious and ordained — to take up. It was a priority to which he summoned us not just by words but example. In his 26 and a half years as our holy father, he made 104 foreign trips, visiting 205 (129 different) countries, 617 different cities, giving 2,382 speeches, over the span of 543 days. He logged more miles traveling to preach the Gospel than all his predecessors combined — in large part, to revivify faith of so many people in so many different countries. To carry out the new evangelization, he journeyed more than 700,000 miles — 29 times the circumference of the earth and 3 times the distance of a round trip to the moon, crisscrossing the globe many times over in order to bring Jesus to the world and bring the world back to life in Jesus.
      •  On Thursday, we’re going to talk about how John Paul II sought to get us to become part of this new evangelization, which constitutes a new Pentecost, a new chapter in the Acts of the Apostles that God wants to write with our lives for the 21st century. John Paul II said over-and-over again that when we truly come to know Jesus, we can’t not share him with others, just like Lazarus did, just like John Paul II did.  When we experience what his risen life is all about, we want all others to have that joy. At St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish in Rome in 1999, John Paul II said about this scene: “It is the mission of Christians to continue to proclaim Christ, man’s ‘resurrection and life.’ Yes, faced with the signs of a creeping ‘culture of death,’ Jesus’ great revelation must still be heard today: ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’”
      • But you don’t have to wait until Thursday to begin cooperating anew with Christ in this new evangelization. You probably know several Catholics who are in the tomb of depression, the sepulcher of sin, burial chamber of a broken heart, whose spiritual life has been collecting cobwebs in a some interior crypt. These people may be precisely those who need to hear John Paul II’s voice echoing here in Sugar Land this week, reminding them of Christ’s love and how Christ wants to give them his risen life so that they may have it to the full. If John Paul II were here in this pulpit right now, he would tell you, “Don’t be afraid to invite them to this mission! Don’t be afraid to ask them to open their hearts to Christ! Don’t be afraid to say that there’s something special going on at St. Theresa’s this week and to encourage them to be a part of it!” Even if they might seem like a hopeless cause, remember that Lazarus was four days in the tomb. The Jews thought nothing could happen, that all hope was lost. But they were wrong. The same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead can bring their souls to life. But he needs someone to  show him where they are. He needs someone to roll away the stone. He needs someone to help him to unbind the strings of cloth binding their hands, feet and hearts. In short, he needs you.
    • “I am the Resurrection and the Life. … Do you believe this?” As we prepare together to say “Yes, Lord, I do believe” through the profession of our faith in the Creed, let us ask our Lord, through the intercession of the Venerable Pope John Paul II, to bless us during these days of the mission, so that we may grow in faith, live more and more by our faith, and receive the help of God to bring that faith out to others so that Jesus may continue to raise others from death to life!  Praised be Jesus Christ!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 EZ 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R/ (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2 ROM 8:8-11

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit dwelling in you.

Gospel JN 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
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 to him,
“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.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
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.