Fr. Rick’s Homily, version 3 – 5th Sunday of Lent

Version 3…… Warning, intended for serious Disciples of Christ who are tired of the grave…

 Please begin Version 3 by reading this following excerpt from: ‘The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ of the Second Vatican Council; paragraphs 37 to 39.  1965

37. Sacred Scripture teaches the human family what the experience of the ages confirms: that while human progress is a great advantage to man, it brings with it a strong temptation. For when the order of values is jumbled and bad is mixed with the good, individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests, and not to those of others. Thus it happens that the world ceases to be a place of true brotherhood. In our own day, the magnified power of humanity threatens to destroy the race itself.

For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested.(8) Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God’s grace.

That is why Christ’s Church, trusting in the design of the Creator, acknowledges that human progress can serve man’s true happiness, yet she cannot help echoing the Apostle’s warning: “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). Here by the world is meant that spirit of vanity and malice which transforms into an instrument of sin those human energies intended for the service of God and man.

Hence if anyone wants to know how this unhappy situation can be overcome, Christians will tell him that all human activity, constantly imperiled by man’s pride and deranged self-love, must be purified and perfected by the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection. For redeemed by Christ and made a new creature in the Holy Spirit, man is able to love the things themselves created by God, and ought to do so. He can receive them from God and respect and reverence them as flowing constantly from the hand of God. Grateful to his Benefactor for these creatures, using and enjoying them in detachment and liberty of spirit, man is led forward into a true possession of them, as having nothing, yet possessing all things.(9) “All are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:22-23).

38. For God’s Word, through Whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh and dwelt on the earth of men.(10) Thus He entered the world’s history as a perfect man, taking that history up into Himself and summarizing it.(11) He Himself revealed to us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and at the same time taught us that the new command of love was the basic law of human perfection and hence of the worlds transformation.

To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, He gives assurance that the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one. He cautions them at the same time that this charity is not something to be reserved for important matters, but must be pursued chiefly in the ordinary circumstances of life. Undergoing death itself for all of us sinners,(12) He taught us by example that we too must shoulder that cross which the world and the flesh inflict upon those who search after peace and justice. Appointed Lord by His resurrection and given plenary power in heaven and on earth,(13) Christ is now at work in the hearts of men through the energy of His Holy Spirit, arousing not only a desire for the age to come, but by that very fact animating, purifying and strengthening those noble longings too by which the human family makes its life more human and strives to render the whole earth submissive to this goal.

Now, the gifts of the Spirit are diverse: while He calls some to give clear witness to the desire for a heavenly home and to keep that desire green among the human family, He summons others to dedicate themselves to the earthly service of men and to make ready the material of the celestial realm by this ministry of theirs. Yet He frees all of them so that by putting aside love of self and bringing all earthly resources into the service of human life they can devote themselves to that future when humanity itself will become an offering accepted by God.(14)

The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life’s journey in that sacrament of faith where natural elements refined by man are gloriously changed into His Body and Blood, providing a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

39. We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity,(15) nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away;(16) but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide,(17) and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.(18) Then, with death overcome, the sons of God will be raised up in Christ, and what was sown in weakness and corruption will be invested with incorruptibility.(19) Enduring with charity and its fruits,(20) all that creation(21) which God made on man’s account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity.

Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world and lose himself,(22) the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age.

Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.(23)

These are 3 paragraphs of a 93-paragraph document.  It is one document among three other Dogmatic Constitutions and about 15 other minor documents that were produced during the Second Vatican Council from 1962-1965 —– 55 year ago.  The Council was called in order to help the Church respond to the needs of a rapidly changing global environment with an ever wider variety of people interacting in each other’s space amongst great leaps in technological innovation.  It was perceived that the global community of persons and the Church must let go of many former presumptions about how we live and minister and be open to the new.

I happen to read these excerpts this past Saturday because they came up in the Office of Readings of my daily prayer with the Liturgy of the Hours.  I thought the words were especially vivid in light of our global ‘lockdown’ or ‘binding’ that is brought about by the pandemic.  At least for the time being, life as we have known it is over.  We are unsure how much of the ‘normal’ will reconvene once the virus has been contained or has run its course.  How will our economies recover in a way that we recognize?  How confident are we that consumer economies based so heavily in redundant goods and services are the best way to ‘do life’?

Cultures through the ages rise and fall based largely on the viability of the assumptions by which they are living.  We see in the first reading today from the prophet Ezekiel that Israel has been allowed to be destroyed by the Assyrians because their stony hearts were no longer open to be God’s people.  They were depicted as bleached and parched bones out in the desert.  Hard to imagine a more vivid description of DEATH of a people.  But in the midst of this devastation, God is promising to raise them up as a people, that they will be given natural hearts and breathe into them a new spirit.  He is promising them a new life as He always has.  They have not listened in the past, but perhaps now they will be more attentive and be open to the only One who can actually give them the new life for which they were created.  Their options are not many or attractive.  Why not believe in and trust in God?  It’s important to note here that God is calling back to life a whole nation, a whole people whose mission it is to spread the Good News; that we do not have to destroy ourselves.

John’s gospel is also calling to life a people.  While Lazarus is the only one depicted as being in the grave, a whole family and community and people are being edified.  God’s understanding of Creation and Reality is much bigger than human illusions.  “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died!”  The truth is, the Lord WAS always with them, they were just unaware or had forgotten.  Jesus asked that those who had witnessed the revival of Lazarus would untie him.  He was now free to live life anew. 

As noted earlier in version 2 above, we might now be more focused and serious about evaluating the attitudes and lifestyles and assumptions that keep us from living the full lives for which God as created us.  We are reminded that we are also called to untie each other and untie God’s people.  We can see more vividly than ever how interconnected we are.  This should definitely be a most holy time in human history.  The Second Vatican Council was convened at a time when we were gearing up for a military strategy of mutually assured destruction.  We have since discovered many ways in which the whole world is at peril, from global warming, to unsustainable use of natural resources to an ever-growing presence of desperate refugees looking for a new life.  It’s easy to feel as hopeless as the sisters Martha and Mary or the people of Israel in the desert. However, the same God is calling us out of the grave.  Perhaps we need to stay tied until we can genuinely give up control and let God untie us and lead us.

Please keep a journal of your thoughts and reflections during these trying times and keep praying using the many resource on our website and others of your choosing.

God Bless You!!