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Monsignor Yennock's Homily April 2, 2017 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

Apr 17, 2017

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

APRIL 2, 2017

A PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY AT LOYOLA UNIVERSITY IN CHICAGO TELLS THIS STORY:

THE STORY IS ABOUT TOMMY, ONE OF HIS STUDENTS. TOMMY WAS A SELF-PROCLAIMED ATHEIST.

HE DIDN’T BELIEVE ANYTHING. HE ESPECIALLY SCOFFED AT THE IDEA THAT GOD COULD LOVE PEOPLE UNCONDITIONALLY. TOMMY WAS A SKEPTIC.

WHEN TOMMY HANDED IN HIS FINAL EXAM AT THE END OF THE COURSE HE SAID TO THE PRIEST PROFESSOR: “FATHER, DO YOU THINK I’LL EVER FIND GOD?” THE PRIEST LOOKED AT HIM AND SAID: “NO TOMMY, YOU WON’T FIND GOD, BUT GOD WILL FIND YOU.”

THAT WASN’T THE ANSWER THAT TOMMY EXPECTED. HE SHRUGGED HIS SHOULDERS AND WALKED AWAY. AS HE DISAPPEARED THROUGH THE DOOR, FATHER WONDERED. WHAT WOULD BECOME OF THIS STRANGE YOUNG MAN?

HE HADN’T HEARD FROM TOMMY AFTER THAT LAST CLASS BUT A FEW YEARS LATER THE PRIEST HEARD THAT TOMMY WAS DYING OF CANCER. BEFORE HE COULD GET IN TOUCH WITH HIM, TOMMY GOT IN TOUCH WITH HIS FORMER PROFESSOR.

AS TOMMY WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR OF THE CLASSROOM, THE PRIEST COULD SEE THAT HIS BODY WAS WASTED AWAY AND HIS HAIR HAD FALLEN OUT FROM CHEMOTHERAPY. BUT TOMMY’S EYES WERE CLEAR, AND HIS VOICE WAS FIRM.

“I WANT TO TALK TO YOU, FATHER ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID TO ME THE LAST DAY OF CLASS. YOU SAID I WOULD NEVER FIND GOD, BUT THAT GOD WOULD FIND ME. WELL, WHEN THE DOCTOR TOLD ME THAT I HAD ONLY A SHORT TIME TO LIVE, I DID SOMETHING I NEVER THOUGHT I’D DO. I STARTED PRAYING TO GOD REAL HARD.

BUT NOTHING HAPPENED. NOBODY ANSWERED. “I TRIED HARDER! BUT AGAIN, NOTHING HAPPENED. NOBODY ANSWERED. FINALLY, AFTER TRYING A FEW MORE TIMES, I GAVE UP. IT WAS THEN THAT I REMEMBERED SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOU SAID IN CLASS. YOU SAID’ IT WOULD BE TRAGIC FOR SOMEONE TO DIE WITHOUT HAVING TOLD SOMEONE THAT YOU REALLY LOVED THEM.

I DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT. I STARTED WITH THE TOUGHEST PERSON OF ALL: MY DAD. ONE NIGHT WHEN WE WERE HOME ALONE, I TOLD HIM HOW I FELT ABOUT HIM.

THEN MY DAD DID TWO THINGS THAT I CAN’T REMEMBER HIM EVER DOING BEFORE. HE CRIED, AND HE HUGGED ME. THE TWO OF US TALKED ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT, EVEN THOUGH DAD HAD TO WORK THE NEXT MORNING.

TELLING MY MOTHER AND MY LITTLE BROTHER THAT I LOVED THEM WAS A LOT EASIER. LIKE MY DAD, THEY ALSO CRIED AND HUGGED ME. THEN AN UNEXPECTED THING HAPPENED. OUT OF NOWHERE, GOD ENTERED MY LIFE. HE ENTERED IT WITH SUCH A FORCE AND A POWER THAT I WAS OVERWHELMED. THAT’S WHEN I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID TO ME THE LAST DAY OF CLASS.

REMEMBER--YOU SAID THAT I’D NEVER FIND GOD, BUT THAT GOD WOULD EVENTUALLY FIND ME. WELL, FATHER, HE FOUND ME!”

TOMMY DIED SHORTLY AFTER THAT. OR AS THE PRIEST PUT IT:”TOMMY DIDN’T REALLY DIE. HE BEGAN LIVING IN A DIFFERENT WAY.”

IN THE GOSPEL WHEN LAZARUS DIED, JESUS SAID TO HIS SISTER MARTHA: “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE; WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, EVEN IF HE DIES, WILL LIVE.” BEFORE AND AFTER TOMMY DIED HE BEGAN LIVING IN THE WAY JESUS PROMISED.

WHEN I READ TODAY’S GOSPEL AND HOW JESUS WEPT AT THE TOMB OF HIS FRIEND LAZARUS I THOUGHT OF THE STORY OF HOW TOMMY’S FATHER CRIED AT THE THOUGHT THAT HIS SON WAS GOING TO DIE.

JESUS, THE SON OF GOD, CRYING AT THE TOMB OF LAZARUS IS ONE OF THE MOST MOVING SCENES IN THE GOSPELS.  AND THE REASON IT IS SO MOVING IS BECAUSE JESUS IS REVEALING HIS HUMANITY TO US. WE TEND TO FORGET ABOUT THE HUMANITY OF JESUS.

WE TEND TO FORGET THAT JESUS GOT HUNGRY IN THE DESERT. WE TEND TO FORGET THAT JESUS GOT THIRSTY ON THE CROSS. WE TEND TO FORGET THAT JESUS GOT WEARY ON THE WAY TO SAMARIA. WE TEND TO FORGET THAT JESUS GREW DEPRESSED IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE WHEN HE THOUGHT ABOUT THE PASSION.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT THAT WE NOTICE THE TEARS FLOWING DOWN THE CHEEKS OF JESUS WHEN THEY TELL HIM THAT LAZARUS, HIS FRIEND IS DEAD? THE TEARS OF JESUS ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY REMIND US THAT JESUS WAS HUMAN.

WE NEED TO REMEMBER THAT JESUS GOT HUNGRY AND THIRSTY; JESUS GOT TIRED AND DEPRESSED. JESUS WAS FRUSTRATED WITH PETER AND DISAPPOINTED WITH JUDAS. IN THE TEMPLE, JESUS WAS ANGRY BECAUSE THOUGHTLESS MEN WERE DESECRATING HIS FATHER’S HOUSE.

WE RECOGNIZE THE SAME FEELINGS IN JESUS THAT WE HAVE EXPERIENCED IN THOSE SITUATIONS. JESUS IS LIKE US IN EVERYTHING EXCEPT SIN.

BUT TODAY’S GOSPEL CONTAINS AN EVEN MORE IMPORTANT POINT ABOUT JESUS. IT SHOWS US NOT ONLY THE WEEPING JESUS WHO GRIEVES OVER THE DEATH OF LAZARUS. IT ALSO SHOWS US THE JESUS WHO HAD THE POWER TO BRING LAZARUS BACK TO LIFE.

JESUS SHOUTS: LAZARUS COME FORTH AND HIS FRIEND WHO WAS IN THE TOMB FOR FOUR DAYS WALKS OUT OF THE TOMB.

TODAY’S GOSPEL MAKES IT CLEAR THAT JESUS ISN’T JUST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. HE’S ALSO THE SON OF GOD. JEUS IS NOT ONLY A MAN. HE IS GOD IN HUMAN FLESH. JESUS CAN TOUCH OUR LIVES IN A WAY THAT NO OTHER HUMAN BEING COULD EVER TOUCH US.

A MARINE CHAPLAIN IN WORLD WAR II TELLS HOW A YOUNG MARINE WAS TOUCHED BY JESUS.

REV. ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN WAS A CHAPLAIN ABOARD A TROOP TRANSPORT. AFTER WORLD WAR II THE TRANSPORT WAS BRINGING MARINES BACK HOME FROM JAPAN. SOME OF THE MARINES ASKED THE CHAPLAIN TO JOIN THEM IN A DAILY BIBLE-STUDY SESSION.

ONE DAY THEY WERE STUDYING THE STORY OF THE RAISING OF LAZARUS FROM THE TOMB. AFTER THE SESSION A YOUNG MARINE SAID TO CHAPLAIN BROWN: “GOD SEEMED TO SPEAK TO ME TODAY, THROUGH THE STORY OF LAZARUS.”

THE MARINE EXPLAINED HOW ONE DAY IN JAPAN HE HAD GOTTEN INTO SERIOUS TROUBLE. NO ONE ELSE KNEW ABOUT THE EPISODE, BUT THE MARINE’S PERSONAL GUILT OVERWHELMED HIM. HE HAD EVEN CONSIDERED KILLING HIMSELF.

THE MARINE SAID THAT DURING THE STUDY SESSION HE BEGAN TO REALIZE THAT JESUS UNDERSTOOD HIS SITUATION BECAUSE JESUS HIMSELF WAS A MAN.

MORE THAN THIS, THE MARINE SAID THAT WHEN HE BEGAN TO THINK ABOUT JESUS RAISING LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD HE BEGAN TO REALIZE THAT JESUS WAS ALSO GOD. HE BEGAN TO REALIZE THAT JESUS COULD HELP HIM IN THE MOST POWERFUL WAY IMAGINABLE. HE COULD RAISE HIM TO NEW LIFE, AS HE DID LAZARUS.

IN HIS GREAT SIN AND GUILT, THE MARINE HAD DISCOVERED JESUS.  MORE IMPORTANT, HE HAD DISCOVERED THAT JESUS WAS THE SON OF GOD. HE DISCOVERED THAT JESUS IS OUR BEST HOPE FOR LIFE WITH GOD, NOT ONLY IN THE NEXT LIFE BUT ALSO IN THIS LIFE.

THE STORY OF TOMMY, THE GOSPEL STORY OF LAZARUS, THE WAR STORY OF THE MARINE – THESE STORIES SPEAK TO US ABOUT JESUS IN TWO SPECIAL WAYS.

FIRST, THEY REMIND US THAT JESUS IS HUMAN. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO SUFFER PAIN AND LOSS. HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE REJECTED. UNDERSTANDS FORGIVENESS.

SECOND, THE STORIES REMIND US THAT JESUS IS ALSO THE SON OF GOD. HE CAN HELP US IN A WAY NO HUMAN BEING CAN HELP US.

HE BROUGHT THE WIDOW’S SON BACK TO LIFE. HE BROUGHT THE SON OF A CENTURIAN BACK TO LIFE.  HE BROUGHT LAZARUS BACK TO LIFE.

HE PROVED THAT HE WAS THE LORD OF LIFE WHEN HE WALKED AWAY FROM HIS OWN GRAVE BY HIS OWN POWER.

JESUS’ POWER OVER SIN AND DEATH IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL. WHAT JESUS DID FOR MARTHA AND LAZARUS; WHAT JESUS DID FOR TOMMY AND THE YOUNG MARINE HE CAN DO FOR US.

JESUS SAID TO MARTHA “I AM THE RESURECTION AND THE LIFE; WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, EVEN IF HE DIES, WILL LIVE, AND EVERYONE WHO LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER DIE”.

THEN JESUS LOOKED AT MARTHA AND ASKED HER: MARTHA DO YOU BELIEVE THIS? MARTHA’S ANSWER WAS: “YES LORD I HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE THE CHRIST THE SON OF GOD, THE ONE WHO IS COMING INTO THE WORLD”.

TODAY JESUS IS LOOKING AT YOU AND ME. HE IS ASKING US THE SAME QUESTION: “DO YOU BELIEVE THIS; BECAUSE IF YOU DO YOU WILL SEE THE GLORY OF GOD?”

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