READINGS: 1st: Ezekiel 37:12-14 Psalm: 130 2nd: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John 11:1-45
Way back on Ash Wednesday, February 26th – before any of us had heard of Coronavirus and social distancing and sheltering in place --- we set as a goal for our 40 day Lenten journey – personal transformation: we were all going to be like the mythical Phoenix – which bursts into flames – dies to its old self – and rises a new from the ashes. . .
I suggested we were all in a dark tunnel – of pain, or hurt, or confusion -- sometimes because of circumstances beyond our control – and need to move out of the tunnel into the wonderful light of Christ – which is waiting for us on the other side of the tunnel.
That transformation, that dying and rising process – had us looking at some difficult, but necessary things during Lent. . .
On the first Sunday of Lent, we considered that we come into the light of Christ when we choose to be victors rather than victims. We cannot control the things that happen to us – but we can control how we react to them –and how we can chose to move beyond them. And as Christians, we claim our victory through the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ!
On the second Sunday of Lent, we remembered the words of Andy Dufresne in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption:
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
And how we come out of the dark tunnel and into the wonderful light of Jesus Christ – when we place our hope in Christ: No one, or NO thing else: “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him!”
The third Sunday of Lent, we considered that sometimes we do hold on to things so tightly from our past, refusing to turn loose of them so much – that our hearts and our lives –cannot move forward.
We come out of the tunnel of darkness into the light of Christ when we come to understand that in harboring the anger, bitterness, and resentment of past hurts – we are giving the reigns of control over to someone else ---- besides ourselves.
It was on that 3rd Sunday of Lent that the seeds for the need of forgiveness were planted: for forgiving is not about ACCEPTING the words and deeds that hurt us – forgiving is about letting go and moving on – with our lives. And in doing so – we choose to set ourselves free. . .
Which brings us to the tomb today – where our hands and feet, our hearts and lives – are often bound –
wrapped in a cloak of resentment and grudges we may find so comfortable – we don’t want to turn loose of them. . . but turn loose of them we must--- if we want to be truly free in the light of Jesus Christ. And we unwrap ourselves and throw off that cloak when we FORGIVE.
But before we go there – let’s acknowledge the blame game which we talked about last week – that gets carried into this week’s Gospel -- When Martha says:
“Lord, IF ONLY you had been here – my brother would not have died.”
There is probably a little bit of blame in every death of a loved one ----
IF ONLY we went to the doctor earlier. . .
IF ONLY we would have tired a different treatment or a different medication.. .
IF ONLY we would have recognized the symptoms earlier. . .
Finding someONE or someTHING to blame – only gives power to the pain – and avoids finding a solution for moving forward ---
In an article in the New World Catholic, David Richhio writes:
“As adults, our work is to recognized our pain and to work with it for change. To hold onto it – is a choice against change and growth, and for such a choice – we are the ones responsible.
“The work of recovery can never truly proceed as long as anyone else is to blame, because we then become passive victims, unable to help ourselves. Only able (though wounded) adults can do this work for themselves on themselves.”
Which brings us back to forgiveness, which, as Christian author C.S. Lewis says: “everyone thinks it’s a lovely idea until they have someone to forgive.”
Because it takes courage to forgive. And the major reason why people do not forgive – is that they do not have any models of forgiveness in their lives.
Forgiveness can be slow process. Forgiveness is a gift from God --- and a gift to oneself.
Forgiveness is an act of the will – a decision to let go of the desire to get even with someone who has hurt us.
We forgive because WE need to be healed. And the person who refuses to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
Research indicates that forgiveness is the trait most strongly linked to happiness.
Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation – when we try to repair a broken relationship – although reconciliation can be sought after forgiveness occurs.
Forgiveness is simply our choice not to carry the pain – not to let the hurt control us – which means it doesn’t even have to be communicated to the one who hurt us.
Naturally, people don’t like to (and frankly , don’t want to) forgive – we want to hold on to bitterness because we think – if I forgive the people who have hurt me – then I’m condoning their actions. Somehow I am saying what they did is okay.
That is not true at all: God is the judge, and God will judge appropriately.
Bitterness, lack of forgiveness, and grudges harm the one who is holding on to them the most.
But when we forgive – we are essentially saying: “you cannot destroy, end me, or hinder me any longer – because God is healing my wound. And God is better than bitterness. . .
Although forgiving someone is perhaps the hardest work we can do – we must absolutely do it – because not forgiving makes us toxic . An then we really have little to offer our family, our faith community, and our neighbors – because in a way, bitterness has to spread – because no one it all for themselves. . .
Milly yearned to absolve all those who had troubled her in her life.
She forgave her father for naming her Milly instead of Jo Ann.
She forgave her mother for passing on to her genes that made her oversensitive to small hurts and slights.
She forgave her brother for reading her diary, and her sister for her pretty legs, and her cat from running away.
Milly forgave everyone who had ever forgotten her birthday and everyone who looked over her shoulder at parties for someone more attractive to talk to.
She forgave her boss for being hard on her, and her husband for making uncalled for remarks about stale breakfast cereal and burned toast.
All this dispensing of absolution emptied Milly out and made her light as air. She had a sensation of floating, of weightlessness, and it seemed to her that bells were chiming inside of her head. . .
And so we are at the tomb – today – where are hands and our feet, our hearts and our lives – are bound – wrapped in a cloak of resentment and grudges we may find so comfortable – we don’t want to turn loose of them.
And Jesus stands outside of our tombs – and calls each of us by name – to come forth.
Are we ready to be as light as air – to have the sensation of floating, bells ringing inside our heads – because we are ready to forgive??
Or, are we going to stay in the darkness of our self-made tombs.
Jesus makes the choice clear: COME FORTH!
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