Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2023

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2023

John 11: 1-45

Once I made a dental appointment after a very long absence from my dentist. I made it with a new doctor who wouldn’t know how long it had been since my last cleaning.  But when the hygienist came in to begin her task, I had to confess. “I’m so sorry it’s been such a long time, but”—she interrupted me. “What matters is that you are here now,” she said gently. I will never forget those words, and the comforting way she spoke. No judgment. What matters is that you are here now.

At some point at this time of year, we suddenly realize that Easter is only three, or two or one week away, and we might feel that we have squandered our Lent. Even if we’ve worked at being faithful to our planned program for this blessed season, it isn’t unusual for Catholics to feel inadequate, even guilty, as we approach the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. “Is it too late?” we ask Jesus. “Can I make up, in two weeks, what I wanted to do for six?” Both Jesus and our Church say, Not at all. What matters is that you are here now. Yes, we are a people of Second Chances!

In today’s Liturgy we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. He had been in the tomb four days, and his family, Martha and Mary, beloved friends of Jesus, were grieving both for the loss of their brother and the failure of Jesus to have come to prevent his dying. The Lord had healed so many people who were sick, many of whom seemed to be veritable strangers. But when Jesus was notified of Lazarus’ critical illness, He had continued carrying on business as usual. What heartbreak for the two sisters.  If only we had called on Him sooner. If only we had gone in person to ask Him to come. If only….

Regret seems to be part of our lives: for words not spoken, for prayers not prayed. And for resolutions unkept. If only. Today the Church shows us that what is important is that we are here now, one week away from Holy Week, and we are ready to begin again. You know my heart, Good Jesus.

Jesus stands at the tomb of Lazarus and talks with Martha and Mary. Do you believe? And in less than two weeks we will stand at the tomb of Jesus and bitterly recall our own part in His suffering and death:  If only I had been a better person throughout lent, made a good confession, Jesus would could work such miracles and make me a better person. I could rise from my sinful ways and be transformed into a new person.

It’s not too late.  For the next two weeks, and for every week after for the rest of our lives, we can turn to God and begin again. That’s not to say that we can just dilly dally through life doing whatever, as long as we repent now and then. We know there’s more to this story than that. But we often fail, and Jesus says, as we come to Him on our arthritic knees, with our broken hearts and our tear-stained faces, What matters is that you are here now.

That is the story of His resurrection. He appeared to his disciples, the ones who had abandoned Him and denied Him, and said Peace be with you. My peace I give you. We know that will happen in two weeks. But let’s not wait. Let’s not give up. Let us resolve to make these next 14 days as holy as we can in whatever way we had hoped to when Lent began.

Then we will hear Jesus say to us on Easter morning, as He once said to the entombed Lazarus,

Your name,  come forth, a new creation.

God bless us, one and all.

“With Mary, our lives continually proclaim the greatness of the Lord and the joy experienced in rendering service to Him.”

Holy Rule

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