Sunday, April 2, 2017

Homily for 5th Sunday in Lent

He was favored to win the 400 meter race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics; disappointment came instead; his hamstring tore, he fell to the ground in great pain.  Olympic officials came to his aid, to remove him from the track.  He decided to rise up instead and hobble those last 250 meters to the finish line, despite pain and profound weeping.  Suddenly a man pushes thru the crowd and security to help the runner; it was his father.  You don't have to do this he tells his son, his son replies: yes I do.  His father responds, then let's do this together.  Supported by his fathers massive arms and loving embrace they appraoch the finish line.  The father let's go at the very last moment so his son can complete his race, cross his finish line.  Derek Redmond did not finish in 1st place; there would be no gold medal; but he finished the race thanks to the love of his father.
This incredible moment in Olympic history was immortalized on a video set to the music of Josh Groban:
"You raise me up so I can stand on mountains; you raise me up to walk on stormy seas; I am strong when I am on your shoulders; you raise me up, to more than I can be!"

As people of faith, will we rise up, will we finish the race, will we depend on the love of the Father?

This is the question we are challenged to answer after three wonderful weeks spent in the Gosepl of John.  Each Gospel should scream to each of us: "Rise Up".  Rise up and move away from sin and newness of life.  Rise up and partake of the living water Jesus first offered the Samaritan woman at the well and now He offers living water to each of us.  Rise up and see with eyes restored to new vision, to see the light of Christ like the blind man who washed in the pool of Siloam.  Rise up and roll away the stones that keep us in our spiritual tombs, just like Lazarus physically left his tomb.  Rise up!

In today's Gospel, where Jesus wept, loved his friends, and fulfilled the will of His Father, he freed Lazarus from the bonds of death with three commands: take away the stone, Lazarus come out, untie him and let him go.  No big fanfare, no fancy production, three simple commands spoken some 2,000 years ago to Lazarus and meant for all of us today.  Jesus is begging us right now; Rise up!  and roll away the stones that hold us back, to walk out of our tombs that keep us in darkness and walk in the light, to break free from the ties that bind us and hold us back.  Rise Up!

Lent is quickly drawing to a close; next Sunday is Palm Sunday, the following week we begin the Triduum and arrive at Easter.  The time to Rise Up is right now, just like Derek Redmond knew he had to rise up from that Olympic Track and run to finish the race.

You see many of us burn out trying to be first place when just finishing is so much more important.  The race we are running has a far greater prize than a Gold Medal; it is the prize of eternal life with the Father!  We are called this week to run to Holy Confession, to adore the living Jesus when the Priest holds high the consecrated Host and we say, My Lord and My God, and when we hit our knees in prayer and ask the Father, carry me to that finish line, give me the strength to rise up!  We can pray, like in the Morning Offering to offer our daily hopes and joys as well as our daily struggles and sufferings to the Father.  We need to return to this prayer every day!

Why did Derek Redmond's father run to help his son?  He saw the pain on the face of his son; that his son was hurt but oh so determined.  God sees the pain on our faces, he knows when we are hurt, he knows when we are determined, not necessarily to finish first but to finish the race.  God comes to raise us up, He withholds nothing from us, not even His Son who came to save us all!

"You raise me up so I can stand on mountains; you raise me up to walk on stormy seas; I am strong when I am on your shoulders; you raise me up, to more than I can be!"

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