message from Father Anthony
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This Sunday’s readings all have a beautiful, significant theme:
The Lord is Doing Something New!
This is particularly comforting
given the circumstances we are having to endure with social distancing and isolation.
In our first reading from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, God’s people had been exiled. They were isolated. But the Lord promises to put His Spirit in them so that they may live. He will raise them up and bring them back to His land!
If we but keep the faith and entrust ourselves to His care and the care of our Holy Mother Mary, the “Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Romans 8:11) giving us life! New Life!
During this challenging time, especially with our churches being closed, we can identify with God’s people during their time of isolation. But in our Gospel this week St. John speaks the greatest of the “I Am” statements. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” God is the God of life!
One of my favorite quotations from the early Church Fathers is from St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who said, “the glory of God is the human being fully alive.”
God’s glory, is that we are fully alive. Many people these days are having their spirit renewed because of what is happening in the world. God is not distant, aloof or indifferent to the sufferings of man. A cashier at Walmart told me this week “God has got this”! He sure has! We see it in the Gospel today where he raises his beloved friend Lazarus from the dead. We can certainly witness his humanity, Jesus weeping for his friend. But his divinity is also magnificently present. He raises Lazarus from the dead!
In a way, what we are going through with dangers posed to us in the pandemic of the Coronavirus, is the purgation of our sins. Many of us are offering sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, for the forgiveness of our own sins.
St. Augustine said that Lazarus in his grave is symbolic of man in the state of spiritual death. In sin, the life of God’s grace in man’s soul is dead. Only God, can raise us up again and newly restore us from spiritual death.
We look in the Gospel in the raising of Lazarus, and in front of his tomb is a huge rock. It is the huge rock that we roll in front of our hearts when we choose sin, turning away from God’s commands and the life of charity. If we look at ourselves honestly, we will find that because of that choice, our hearts, our souls are filled, like the tomb of Lazarus, with stench.
Many of us are coming to realize that the human heart is meant to be a temple for God, adorned with virtue, especially faith, hope, and love. Imagine that same temple, filled not with love of God, but with anger, hatred, lust and selfishness.
I love to read about the lives of the Saints. There is a particular saint, “Saint Christina” from Belgium who lived in the 13th Century. Christina suffered a fit at the age of twenty one. Pronounced dead, she suddenly flew to the top of a church where she announced that she had seen heaven, hell, and purgatory. Christina could not tolerate the odor of human beings. She would become nauseated when she was in the presence of people whose souls were dead and rotting because of mortal sin.
But there is good news in all of this! The stone is rolled away and Jesus brings light and life and renewal and freshness. We must be encouraged by realizing that what is happening in the world today, suffering, sickness, empty streets, empty shelves in the stores, isolation, fear, is a wake up call from God. We need to allow Him, through the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to roll away the stone in our lives and clean up the stench.
This is what Lent is about and never more a time such as what we are going through right now. The stones we roll in front of our hearts which keep us from experiencing the love of God and lives he desires for us may be rolled back. Remember the first line of our first reading today, “Oh my people, I will open your graves have you rise from them.” He will bring us through this calamity but what is more important is that we bring ourselves to him in reconciliation with sincere and repentant hearts.
He will bring us light and life and renewal. All we have to do is humble ourselves before Him and say, “Lord, forgive me, a sinner.” Christ died, that we may live, free from sin, full of divine life. May we die to sin and be filled and stirred to a new life of faith, hope and love!
Looking forward to the day we can all gather again in our Churches, I ask you to keep the faith, and remember: “I am experienced in being brought low, yet I know what it is to have an abundance. I have learned to eat well or go hungry, to be well provided for or do without. In him to is the source of my strength, I have strength for everything.” (Philippians 4:12, 13).
All love and prayers to you, Father Anthony
Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Michael Catholic Churches
103 Golf Club Lane, Springfield, Tennessee 37172
Kendra and Mandee
on Friday, March 27 at 2:10PM