Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on April 1, 2017 at 4:00PM and April 2, 2017 at 8:00am Masses
A young couple was waking up the day after their wedding. The young man asked his new wife if she could make some coffee.
She replied, “I can’t.”
He responded, “Why? Don’t you know how?”
She said, “Of course I know how. But the Bible says the man makes the coffee.”
He said, “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say that.”
The young woman left the room and returned with an open Bible. “See it says right here, ‘HE-BREWS.’”
Sorry. It was a very long gospel today so I choose brevity over quality.
I think that it is kind of ironic that one of the longest gospels in the lectionary contains the shortest verse in all of Scripture: Jesus wept. But those two words are some of the most powerful words in all of scripture, because it tells us so much about our Lord.
Sometimes we forget that Jesus was human, that he lived as we live. Our Lord may not have had a smartphone, the internet, a car, or GPS but he didn’t need them, he is the Son of God after all. He knows the way. In fact he is the way…the truth, and the life. But the gospel from the First Sunday of Lent showed us that Jesus became tired, hungry, and was even tempted. Today’s gospel shows us that Jesus wept over the death of a loved one. During Holy Week we will hear how Jesus experienced pain, suffering, and then death on the cross. All of these are truly human experiences. Because our Lord was human we can approach him about our own pain, suffering, sorrows, and everything else going on in our lives knowing that he understands us and what we are going through. Jesus knows what it is like to experience life, death, and all the other things in between.
Sometimes we think the Lord is far from us. Many times in our prayer life we might approach the Lord as both Mary and Martha do in today’s gospel, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Lord, if you had been here this bad thing would not have happened or Lord, if you had been here this good thing would have happened.” It reminds me of a book all the girls were reading when I was in sixth grade: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I know even in my own prayer life I have been known to ask, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Deacon David.” We may especially feel this way when we watch the news. Today’s gospel shows us that our Lord is close to us. When we are sad and weeping, our Lord is (to quote the gospel) “perturbed and deeply troubled,” which is a fancy way to Jesus was upset. When Lazarus died Jesus wept. Our Lord feels for us. In fact, he loves us so much, as we heard from Paul in his letter to the Romans today, “Christ is in [us]” and “the Spirit of God dwells in [us].” No matter what we are facing or going through in our lives our Lord is not distant from us, he is right with us. His Spirit dwells in us to strengthen us and renew us.
We often forget that what we have with the Lord is a relationship. When you have a good relationship with someone, they are always with you no matter what, good times and bad. Just so our Lord is with us in whatever we are doing, including when we are committing sins. But our Lord wants to be with us and have a good relationship with us no matter how bad we mess up or stink up our lives. Today’s gospel uses the word “stench.” Martha tries to prevent our Lord from going to Lazarus saying, “Lord, by now there will be a stench. He has been dead for four days.” But our Lord cares so much for Lazarus, and for us, that no amount of stench in our lives or the length of days we have been away doesn’t matter to him. Every relationship requires forgiveness for it to grow and bear fruit, and our Lord comes to us with his arms open wide to welcome us back to him. We can receive his love and forgiveness , whether it’s been four days or four decades since we have gone to him. We can heal the wounds that have hurt or broken our relationship with the Lord.
Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible and two of the most powerful words in all of scripture. They tell us that our Lord understands what we are going through, the pain, suffering, and sorrows; that our Lord is close to us and wants to be closer because he is human and humans desire relationships.
Most importantly, these words show us that our Lord is God, a God who will do anything for those that he loves. Lazarus was Jesus’ beloved friend and he died. Jesus wept and then raised him to life. As today’s first reading says, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” Our Lord wants to have a relationship with us, a relationship that will last forever. Our Lord became human to show us how to live, and then died on the cross that we might do so forever.
Rejoice and be glad!