Sunday, March 09, 2008

What's the point? (5th Sunday of Lent)

There is a question we may not say out loud, but many do:

Why should Jesus matter?
He had some quaint ideas that don’t fit our world very well:
forgive your enemies, make peace;
marriage is for life;
the poor come first;
chastity and self-denial bring true happiness.
What’s the point?

Every day we get up, we go to school, or work,
We care for our children, we face our daily tasks.
One day after another.

A contractor builds a house;
a mother sees her children grow strong;
a priest brings Christ into people’s lives.
It can be very satisfying.

Then it can all come crashing down.

This Gospel was a funeral scene;
many of us have been at funerals, in the past year,
for people who had everything crash down on them.

That’s when the question we didn’t worry about
when things were going well rises up:
What’s the point?

We might also remember some folks don’t have it to “crash down”;
because it was never “up” in the first place.

They too, could ask, what’s the point?

If you ask blunt questions like that, let Martha be your patron saint.
As soon as Jesus arrives, she confronts him: “You could have prevented this!”

Can you sense her weariness also?
While she clings to hope in the next life, not much remains for this life.
What’s the point?

There’s a curious thing, about our Catholic Faith,
that only those outside of it really see:
We have a lot of emphasis on suffering and death.
We do we do that?

The other day, I was talking to someone
about the sacrament of anointing;
we talked about how important it is
that Christ is with us, not only in the good times,
but the dark times as well.

You see, that’s the point:
not avoiding what’s bitter in life—we will fail at that—
but having Christ present in the midst of them.
Many of us avoid thinking about death,
but it will come, all the same.

But none of us need be afraid of death.
That’s what changes when we know Jesus.
That’s the point.

That’s why we have a Cross in our churches!
It doesn’t frighten us!
That’s why Catholics keep going to Mass in Iraq;
that’s why Sister Dorothy Stang wasn’t afraid
of the gunmen in Brazil, who ultimately killed her.

That’s why it’s always been true:
you can throw us to the lions or into concentration camps,

but people keep getting baptized, keep coming to Christ:
We’re not afraid of death!

And that is why the climax of the Mass is two-fold:
The sacrifice and death of the Lord
becomes present on this altar;
and we share his broken body, and shed blood.

“Dying, you destroyed our death;
rising, you restored our life: Lord Jesus, come in glory!”
That’s the point.

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