As we continue our Lenten journey we are just one week away from the high point of the Liturgical Year: Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday and climaxes on the Easter Triduum, the three holiest days of the year: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday which brings us into the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was a foreshadowing of what was to come and Jesus did it about a week before he went up to Jerusalem to face his own death. We have all known someone who has died and this makes us sad because deep down inside we know that death should not be a part of life. Even though it happens to everyone, our souls tell us that we were originally created to live forever. And that is why we cry we someone dies. Even Jesus, in his humanity, wept at the passing of his good friend. Death is now a sad part of life on earth. But Christ reveals he has the power over death. The great miracle of raising Lazarus seems unbelievable, except there were many who witnessed it, and so we know it is true. And the truth that Jesus reveals through this miracle is that he is the Resurrection and the Life, that he is the Lord, the Messiah. Raising the dead was a sign for the Jews of the true Messiah as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…I will put my spirit in you that you may live,…thus you shall know that I am the Lord.” That is why Jesus raised Lazarus, so that people may come to be believe that He is the Lord, the promised Savior. And that is what happened, many of the Jews came to believe in him. And so it is a time for us to believe: To believe in the power of Jesus to give us the grace that overcomes death. He wants to put his spirit into us so that we may live, not just our short life on earth but eternal life in Heaven.

He gives us his spirit when we receive the sacraments. Many people are preparing to receive their Sacraments. Last Sunday we talked about the grace of the first sacrament, baptism. In baptism the Holy Spirit heals us of original sin and removes our spiritual blindness so that we may see Jesus as Lord. For sins committed after baptism, especially mortal sins that kill the life of grace in our soul, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is given so that Jesus can restore his grace in our souls. A couple of weeks ago the Vatican had a penance service led by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. And when then lines formed up for the confessional, guess who was in the front of the line to go to confession first: the pope. Yes, even the pope has to go to Confession. Our parish celebrated this great Sacrament of Mercy last Monday. I felt like a proud father to see so many here to receive this great gift of healing. We get a little nervous with Confession. It is kind of scary because we sort of enter into the tomb with all our sins. It is like facing our own mortality. We know death is a result of sin. But through humbly confessing our sins, Jesus does something beautiful, he forgives us and raises us to new life. We come out of a life of sin into a life of grace. He wants to give us a more abundant life even now and not wait to have it in eternity.

In the Gospel Jesus says: “Lazarus “come out.” That is what he does for us: He calls us to come out of our sinful ways, those things that cause death to our soul. After raising Lazarus, Jesus says: “Untie him and let him go.” That is what penance does for us: It unties us from the things that bind us and lets us go free. Jesus releases us from pride and selfishness and all the sins that prevent us from walking in the freedom of God’s love. And no matter how many times our soul experiences a spiritual dying due to sin, Jesus comes to us again and again to raise us up in grace for he is the Resurrection and the Life. It is a great miracle that is almost unbelievable if we did not experience it ourselves. Jesus does this great act of mercy because he wants both our bodies and souls to share fully in his own Resurrection. But how can we experience the Resurrection of our bodies into eternal life if we do not allow Jesus to first raise our souls from the dead through the Sacrament of Reconciliation in this life? In the Gospel Jesus says to Martha “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And then he asks: “Do you believe this?” Let us answer like Martha and say, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are Christ, the Son of God.” And let us show him that we believe by going to Confession. Now how many times we commit sins that cause a spiritual death in our souls, if we believe in the mercy in Jesus and receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will never die. Penance is how we keep the Spirit of Christ alive in us. If the Holy Father goes, so can we.

As we prepare to enter into Holy Week let us continue to die to self through prayer, fasting, works of charity and penance so that we may experience more fully the Resurrection and the Life of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Father Timothy Gallagher

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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