Fr. Charles Irvin
5th Lent [A] RCIA
Ezekiel 37:12-14; Roman 8:8-11; John 11:1-45 (RCIA Readings)
In the opening prayer of this Mass we heard the words: “Help us to embrace the world that you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.”
Why, we might ask, should we embrace a world that is in such turmoil? Jobs are being lost, homes are being lost, and our basic securities are no longer secure. Terrorism hangs over our heads, children in Africa are starving, and the marriages of many people, people we know are, to say the least, troubled.
Doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, and defeat pursue us in our troubled spirits. Folks we know are gripped in a sense of defeat and despair. Perhaps some of our own sons and daughters, nieces or nephews, relatives or friends, constantly talk about how awful life is, or about how much they are victims in life. They talk about their own lack of fulfillment and how they are getting nothing out of life, expecting they will never receive social security payments or have much of a savings account or stock investments when they reach retirement age.
There are many understandable reasons for yielding to sentiments of doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression and defeat. We can, and we should, resist those demons
The first demon to confront and drive out is the spirit of extremism. It’s a mental attitude that converts what in reality happens only occasionally into something claimed to be always happening. It’s a lens through which we see all of life. It is not a balanced view. The result is that defeat is almost guaranteed because we can’t see anything else other than conditions and events that are terrible. Our souls are held in the grip of unrelenting pessimism. Signs of a change toward better conditions are dismissed. Optimism is ridiculed as naiveté.
Another demon that can infest our souls is called “passive resignation”. It simply surrenders to fatalism. The following phrases are tell-tale signs of this spiritual condition: “This is just my lot in life,, “I was never destined to do any better,” “That’s life, and I might just as well accept it,” “It’s God’s will that I suffer”, and so forth.
The Word of God coming to is in today’s scripture passages tells us that it is NOT God’s will that we suffer. He did not create a world in which we are governed by some mythic Fate. God’s created us to live, not to die. He created us to live and love in His heaven forever. God did not intend for us to live with doubt, disillusion, discouragement, depression, despair, and death. His intention was exactly the reverse. His intention in creating us was that we should live in love and happiness in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. God’s intention is our hope, the hope we share with others.
Too much reliance on our own isolated selves, too much reliance on the things of this world lead only to eventual frustration and failure. They are limited; they are inadequate and insufficient when it comes to bringing us happiness and fulfillment.
And so God’s Word in today’s reading comes to us with a challenging question. The question hits each one of us and we should seriously consider the answer to it. The question is: “What is your heart wrapped around?” Put another way: “What is it that’s continually on your mind?
Into all of this drops God’s Word For thus says the Lord: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago , consider not. See, I am doing something new!”
For us, there is only one response. We must begin to think now of what can be in our future and stop thinking about what has been in our past. All of the Sacraments are the acts of God coming to us in Christ. The Sacraments are not just symbols, nor are they merely pretty ceremonies invented by us. Sacraments are the acts of God Himself in Christ reaching out to make things fresh and new for us.
Baptism is a Sacrament of making life new for us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us a fresh start, a new beginning, and a new lease on life. Marriage, Ordination, Anointing of the Sick — all are opportunities for us to pick up on life in a new beginning — if only we will let God do His work in us.
Really, then, what is defeat for us? When you get right down to it, nothing can defeat us except the spirit of defeatism. You may recall that in the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930′ s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt cried out: “We have nothing to fear except fear itself:” We know now that President Roosevelt was right. Once our national self-confidence was restored and once we shook off the spirit of defeatism and isolationism — those great works the devil designed to make us weak and impotent — we began to come out of our depression.
The same is true in our own personal and individual lives. For Easter is the religious and theological statement that for the Christian there is really no ultimate defeat. To be sure we may suffer temporary setbacks, and to be sure we shall suffer in the future. But defeat? Never! Because of Christ’s Easter Resurrection, we can never be defeated – if only we stop feeling continually sorry for ourselves and let the faith Jesus had in His heavenly Father replace our own lack of faith in our selves and in God.
Am I preoccupied with my own failures and misfortunes? Is my heart wrapped around the illusory comfort of feeling sorry for myself? Am I passively resigned to my lot in life? Well, now is the time to throw open the doors of that self-made prison. The stone has been rolled back from the tomb of poor Lazarus. Christ commanded that he be released from his bondages and set free. The same command is for you and for me. No more self-imposed imprisonment in our own little tombs. It’s time to go free because God in Christ wants us to be free, to be happy, and to enjoy life and to walk in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. The world that God loves is being renewed. We need to love it too, love it as Christ loves it.
Defeat is the sacrament of the devil, along with his other sacraments of doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, and despair. For if we walk with Christ and join our passion and suffering into His, then we can walk away from all in life that is cold, dead, dreary, depressing, and which lead us into the hell of our own defeatism.
“Remember not,” your God says to you now, “the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new:” Buds are on our tree limbs, bright green sprouts are peeking out of the ground, alcoholics are finding recovery, marriages are being renewed, and people are returning to our Church along with those who are joining us for the first time.
God is at work. “See,” God says, “I am doing something new. And I can do something new in your own soul, too.”