Our Lenten journey enters the Fifth Week of Lent, and after that into Holy Week. We are therefore approaching closer to the truth of who Jesus is in our lives and how his love for us is real. We remember, celebrate and believe this because of the experiences Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday offer us.
In the face of Jesus’ impending death and resurrection, you and I might be fearful to come nearer to him and to walk even closer with him because we might be struggling to accept the truth that Jesus is indeed our Saviour.
Our fears may have to do with the reality of our sinfulness. But let us remember we have faith. This faith can help us continue our journey in Lent. This faith is strong enough, no matter how little or how much it is, for us to do this. More significantly, our faith is good enough for God. It is therefore good enough for us to come to Jesus in hope.
Such faith and hope is at the heart of the reflection Fr Mark Toups offers us in this Fifth Week of Lent. His reflection is based on the Gospel Reading for the Fifth Sunday. It is about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. You can access it here:
Here are the key points Fr Toups makes in his reflection:
- All of us come to God with the hope of making a good impression on God. But we also come to God with things that are buried deep within us. It could be fears or lies or shames that we have buried so deep because they have to do with our relationship with God and others, and sometimes with a sense of our self-worth.
- To be Christian is to give God time and space to help us process these buried things so as to become free.
- This is beautifully expressed in the Gospel reading for this Fifth Week of Lent. It is about Lazarus who is dead and bound up in burial clothes.
- Lazarus cannot rise from the dead. Only Jesus can raise him and give him life again. Only Jesus can unbind the burial cloths that wrap Lazarus. Only Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead again.
- This story of Lazarus demonstrates how we can all find our way back to God. The sacrament of reconciliation can help us. In this sacrament, Jesus frees us from sin and death. Lent is a good time to seek this sacrament to come home to God and to have life to the full.
- We might also consider making a general confession, a practice popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola. This is where you confess all of the sins of your life surrounding a certain bad habit and ask God to unbind you from it. In the general confession, we should share with God all the sins in our life — sins that take us away from living life fully with God. Fr. Toups shared an example in his life: how he kept giving into a lie that led him to believe that God only loved him when he was doing the right thing. A general confession helped him abandon that lie.
- In Lent (and in Advent), Catholics are encouraged to make a confession. However, some of us might stay away from confessions because we are afraid to tell a priest who you know about your sins. Don’t worry about whether a priest remembers the sins you tell him. A priest is given a special grace to forget the sins he heard in confession. Even if you don’t know how to confess, just let the priest know and he will guide you through it.
- The gospel reading proclaims that Jesus brought freedom to Lazarus. In this Fifth Week of Lent, this is the good news we are asked to hear and to place our hope in — yes, Jesus wants to bring freedom to you.
Fr Mark Toups’ reflection ends with words of hope. This is a glimpse of that great hope Easter makes real — in Jesus we have life to the full, not in death but in the here and now. This perspective invites us to pray and reflect on these 3 points on the Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. They can help us to better consider how God wants to help us find our way home to him
a) In the gospel story, Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus. In Jesus, we have a vulnerable God who is not afraid to express emotions. His emotions reveal how close he is with his friends. God is merciful and loving because he is close to us. This is why Jesus desires to be close to us, accompanying us through the best and worst of times.
Does this fact about Jesus comfort or confuse you? Why? Make a list of what comforts or confuses you if Jesus is capable of weeping because he is vulnerable to this friends’ need.
From your list of what comforts you, pick one that you wish to thank Jesus for because you have experienced it in your life.
From your list of what confuses you, pick one that you wish to honestly share with Jesus about. How would you like Jesus to help you manage this particular confusion
b) In coming out of the tomb, Lazarus is emerging from darkness and death to light and life. This is a metaphor for our lives too. Many a time, we find ourselves in times or situations of darkness. Yet, we were able to come out of these because of someone or something that came as God’s help to save us.
Recall a time when you have a Lazarus-like experience of being in darkness yet you were saved and brought into life again. How did you experience Jesus saving you in that moment? What did Jesus do for you? Who did Jesus send to help you? How did you know this saving action was Jesus’ work? This is how hope looks like?
Imagine Jesus now beside you. What would you like to say to Jesus about his faithfulness to love and save you?
c) In the gospel story, we hear Jesus call out to Lazarus, “Come out!” Lazarus comes out from the tomb and death into community and life again. A crucial event in the life of a person with SSA person is the intimate interior recognition of one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Sometimes, many years pass before this reality can become clear. Coming-out to oneself often gradually leads to a second crucial event: coming out to others.
As a person with SSA, what has been your experience of coming to terms with your sexual orientation and/or gender identity? How has this recognition helped or hindered your coming-out to yourself and others? If you are a family member or a friend of a person with SSA, how does this story relate to your “coming out” as one who still loves, accompanies and supports?
As you reflect on these questions: Was Jesus present in this experience? How was Jesus present? What about Jesus’ presence gave you hope?
This Week’s Prayer & Reflection
“The remedy for fear is trust in God… It means trusting that whatever God does with you and yours is an act of an infinitely loving Father.”
– Caryll Houselander, Reed of God