Category Archives: Les Ruhrmund Homily

Speak of the devil

4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year B
28 Jan 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The reading we’ve just heard is taken from the first chapter in Mark’s Gospel and already we have a second encounter between Jesus and the devil; the first being in the wilderness after Jesus was baptised by John.

The story of Christ’s life and ministry simply cannot be told without referring to the devil. The Apostle John, in his First Letter (3:8), sums up Jesus’ mission in these words: “Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.”

The devil, the power of evil, Satan is not a subject that is discussed often in our modern world but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Perhaps it just illustrates that we live in a world in which the power of evil is enjoying some success in encouraging our egos to believe that we know what’s best for us and keeping God and God’s commandments at a safe distance from our hearts and conscience.

Perhaps the current state of world disorder, conflict, climate change, poverty and inequality are a reflection of our world’s hell-bent progress.

So what does the Church believe about the devil and evil?

A starting point would be an understanding of the Church as the Communion of Saints.
During his homily at the Confirmation Mass at St Michael’s on the Feast of All Saints in November last year, the Archbishop asked the young adults who were to be Confirmed what they understood about the Communion of Saints.

When we recite the Apostles Creed, we profess that we believe in the Communion of Saints but do we know what that means? The Confirmandee were a little uncertain in their reply and I think their sponsors were grateful and relieved that he didn’t ask them to answer the question.

The Communion of Saints refers to the unity that exists between all the members of the Church:
– The Saints in heaven
– All the believers living on earth and
– The souls in purgatory, preparing for sainthood

This communion of saints is most fully expressed and experienced in the Mass – especially at the Consecration and at Holy Communion. In those moments, heaven and earth are united. The saints, those in purgatory and we the believers are intimately connected and united at Mass because the power of Christ binds us together.

Shortly, when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we could reflect on how we are, in that splendid moment, in union with the whole church and particularly with those we have loved who have died.

We, the believers on earth, are called the Church Militant. The word militant isn’t used in the sense that we’re at war with other religions or nationalities; we’re at war spiritually against sin and Satan. The spiritual battle is for our souls and our weapons are the grace and the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are the warriors against evil; soldiers of Christ.

The fight for our souls is relentless. Victories over temptation and sin are often short lived and the battle soon resumes, frequently with increased intensity. St Peter in his First Letter (5:8) says: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour.”

In my own life I’ve found that often following an experience when I’ve felt really close to God, soon afterwards I’m floundering in spiritual apathy and have had to fight hard to regain the ground I thought I’d won.

Lent is just over 2 weeks away and offers us a concentrated time of renewed discipline and hopefully progress in the battle.
One way to recognise evil is to see it as the direct opposite or lack of everything we know about God and our calling to love God and our neighbour.

So as God is love, evil is hatred and indifference
As God is pure, evil is impure; contaminated
As God is unchangeable, evil is mercurial
As God is righteous, evil is dishonest and corrupt
As God is truth, evil is lies and deceit
As God is wisdom, evil is foolishness; reckless and rash
As God is holy, evil is sinful
As God is generous, evil is greedy and selfish
As God is tolerant, evil is prejudiced and bigoted
As God is compassionate, evil is impervious and uncaring
As God is merciful, etc, etc

A lesson we could take from the Gospel reading is to stay close to Jesus. The objective of evil is to separate us from God. The man possessed by the unclean spirit in the synagogue was set free when the evil spirit encountered Jesus.

We stay close to Jesus through prayer and the Sacraments; the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
There is a long tradition in the Church of praying to our guardian angels every day to protect and guide us; a tradition that goes back over 1000 years.

One modern translation of an ancient prayer goes like this:
Angel sent by God to guide me,
Be my light and walk beside me,
Be my guardian and protect me,
On the paths of life direct me.
Let me finish with a quote from Blessed Cardinal Newman’s poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’.

The departed soul of Gerontius is met by his guardian angel who greets him with these words:

My work is done
My task is o’er,
And so I come
Taking it home
For the crown is won
Alleluia
For evermore.

My Father gave
In charge to me
This child of earth
E’en from its birth
To serve and save.
Alleluia,
And saved is he.

This child of clay
To me was given,
To rear and train
By sorrow and pain
In the narrow way,
Alleluia,
From earth to heaven.

As we continue now with this Mass, surrounded by many angels and in communion with the whole church, let’s renew our commitment to being courageous soldiers of Christ, no matter how tough the battle may get.

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Stay awake this Advent

1st Sunday Advent
Year B
3 Dec 2017
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

This weekend marks the start of the season of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year; Year B in the three year cycle. Advent is a uniquely special season in the year in which we are encouraged to reflectively re-evaluate our faith and the status of our spiritual relationship with God.

But the reality is that these next few weeks of Advent approaching Christmas are for many of us chaotic, stressful and taxing. Traffic, crowds, busy shopping centres, presents to buy, visiting family, Christmas lunch to plan, holiday arrangements to finalise, stretched budgets and frazzled nerves.

If we don’t make time to include some spiritual activity in Advent, the season will simply pass us by and before we know it, Easter will be upon us; and then winter and then another spring. Spiritually, we will have slept through it all. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus forewarns us about this very possibility: “Stay awake!” he says because we do not know how many seasons or even days we have available to us in this life to know, love and serve God.

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and spiritual preparation. The season anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives; past, present and future; in the flesh as a baby in Bethlehem, in our hearts every day and the Eucharist, and in glory at the end of time.

Advent is a time of hope.

We renew our hope by remembering that on that first Christmas night, God in the person of the baby Jesus became one of us to reveal God’s love for us and we renew our hope for a future time when Christ will come again. When we participate in the Mass, we give thanks that our hopes for a Messiah have been fulfilled and we profess our faith in our hope that is yet to be fulfilled; “we awaited the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

It’s a new year.
It’s a time to look back at that which has past and to look to the changes we want to make in the future.

But nothing will change in our hearts this Advent unless we consciously decide to make this season spiritually meaningful and significant.

There are a number of Advent traditions that can help keep us spiritually awake over these next few weeks.

We lit the first candle in the Advent wreath at the beginning of Mass and we could have a wreath at home. A few years ago I spent the week before Christmas in Vienna and I remember well that every shop, hotel and apartment in the city centre had an Advent wreath displayed prominently in a window or in the foyer.
The wreath is shaped in a circle and has no beginning or end – symbolizing the eternity of God’s love for us and eternal life that Christ has promised us.
The green branches remind us that Christ’s love remains fresh and strong even in the face of life’s most difficult challenges.

The candles representing the four Sundays of Advent represent the hope, peace, joy and love we desire as we anticipate Christmas.
We could keep an Advent calendar in our homes perhaps prompting a brief reflection each day on our eager expectation of the joy of Christmas.

From next weekend we’ll have the Nativity crib in the church and we could have a Nativity scene in our homes; perhaps a moment’s reflection on the crib each day will help keep us spiritually awake.

Every week for the next three weeks, we have an Advent activity planned in the church. We can make an effort to fit these services into our diaries:

  • Tuesday evening this week at 6.30pm we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes; only 30 minutes
  • On Wednesday next week at 7pm we have an introduction to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary after which we’ll pray the Rosary together; probably no longer than 45 minutes
  • On Wednesday 20th at 7pm we have a penitential service. Advent is a time for reflecting on our weaknesses, our temptations and our struggles with sin; a time to place ourselves humbly in the redeeming grace and mercy of Our Lord. A time to let Christ’s light shine into the dark corners of our lives.

Here are a few other ideas for Advent:

  • If there’s an area of spiritual growth with which we are struggling, acknowledge it and pray for the courage and discipline to change.
  • If we find ourselves captive to thoughts, words or deeds that distance us from God, confess them and start again
  • If we’ve become estranged from someone we love (or perhaps loved), ask Our Lord to help us find the path to reconciliation
  • While we are shopping for our ourselves and our families we could remember those who have so much less than we do and buy something also for them
  • Our focus at Christmas is usually very much on our own families, on the people we love, we could remember in our prayers and in our charity those who have no one to love them
  • Is it too much to add just one decade of the Rosary, to our daily schedules? One decade takes about 3 minutes to pray.
  • Or maybe we could include a weekday Mass in our schedule?
    The frenetic rush to Christmas is upon us.

We cannot escape the traffic, the impatient crowds, the shopping frenzy and the piped Christmas Carols. But we do not have to be completely captive to this madness nor should we allow it to blunt our spiritual awareness of this special season.

For a moment or two every day through Advent we can remind ourselves that we are in a time of waiting, watching and hoping; hoping that when Our Lord comes, we will not be found fast asleep.

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

30th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A 2017 (29 Oct)
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

In the words of Tina Turner: What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
To which the answer, taken from today’s Gospel, is: Everything!!

We are created in the image of God who is love. Our hope, our joy, our happiness and our peace in this life are to be found and are centred in this one truth; that we are created in the image of love that we may love and know that we are loved.

When the Pharisee (who, like all Pharisees, was an expert in “the law and the prophets”) asks Jesus to identify the greatest among the 613 commandments of the Old Testament, Jesus summarises the entire law in his simple and profound reply:
We must love God with all our heart, mind and soul and we must love each other as we love ourselves.

Essentially, Jesus’ reply is quite orthodox. There’s nothing radical in the two commandments he quotes. The commandment to love God comes from the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut 6:5) and the command to love our neighbour comes from The Book of Leviticus (Lev 19:18). What is radical is that Jesus is saying emphatically that we can’t separate loving God from loving our neighbour.

The Pharisees professed great love for God in their obedience to the law but they demonstrated scarce love for the people; they were arrogant, aloof and critical.

Jesus is not throwing out the 613 commandments. He is simply saying that all the other commandments hang on the Greatest Commandment: love God and love your neighbour.

The love for God and neighbour are intently linked. Religious and political extremists of any persuasion who harm their neighbour in the name of God are about as far from God and the truth as can be imagined. They are testimony to the presence and reality of evil in the world.

This love that Jesus talks about is not some fleeting, fickle, self-indulgent emotion. It’s a courageous lifestyle that puts God first, others second, and self third.

First, he said, we must love God; starting with the heart.
When we desire what God desires, we love with our heart.
When we cherish and actively try to understand God’s love for us and the world, we love with our mind.

When we joyfully live our lives following those desires and that understanding, we love with our soul; with our whole being.

This is an intimate relationship with God; a relationship that constantly influences and directs our actions, our desires and our thoughts.
We can’t grow and sustain that relationship if we relegate it to an hour of worship on a Sunday. Our relationship with God, like all relationships, is fulfilling and rewarding in proportion to our commitment to it.

Opening our heart and mind to an intimate relationship with God can be as challenging as it is in human relationships. We find it difficult exposing and admitting our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, our deepest fears and desires; even to ourselves. Perhaps that’s why some find the Sacrament of Reconciliation daunting.

Trust is the core of our relationships with God and with each other.

In our human relationships Jesus says we must love our neighbour as we love our self.

So this would imply that if we are not able to love ourselves, we are not able to love our neighbour; and this obviously would seriously undermine our relationship with God.

In terms of self-love, Jesus is not for a moment referring to self-centred, conceited vanity that excludes love of anyone other than self.

The self-love Jesus is talking about is seeing ourselves, warts and all, as God’s beloved.

We love ourselves because we are loved; we are created in the image of God who is love. Nothing else is relevant.

This self-love is not dependent on our physical size, fat or thin; our intellect, bright or dim; age, old or young; physical condition, healthy or infirm; physical features, attractive or plain, athletic or disabled; our wealth, affluent or destitute; sexual orientation, gay or straight; our careers, success or failure; our popularity, liked or disliked.

Warts and all, we are God’s precious creation. We are loved as we are.
When we embrace that understanding of God’s love for us, we learn to love ourselves.
Through our numerous human differences we glimpse the vastness and diversity of God’s creation that is so much more than just me and my world.

Some years ago a young man in our parish asked me why he had not been born perfect like everyone else in his family. He’d been born with a physical disability. He was kind and gentle, humble and funny, intelligent and caring. It wasn’t difficult to see the image of God in his less than perfect body.

When we focus on what we don’t love about ourselves, wanting to be someone else, when we can’t find the love of God in ourselves, we become deaf and blind to the needs of others. If fact we share the same space as those who are blinded by the perception of their own brilliance.

The way we treat our neighbour then could be a reflection of our self-love.
It’s often easier to express our love for our neighbour who is far away; those caught up in political persecuted or abject poverty or those suffering from the consequences of natural disasters.

But the real test is with those closest to us; our families, friends, colleagues, parishioners; the waiter, shop assistant and hungry beggar. Do they see us as being kind and gentle, generous and compassionate, patient and considerate? Do they see the joy of our certainty of God’s love for us in our eyes and in our words; and in our actions?

The more love we carry in our hearts for God and our neighbour, the better we reflect the image of God that we each carry within us.

The Transfiguration

Year A 2017
6 August
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Today’s feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord celebrates an extraordinary event in the life of Jesus and in the lives of the three disciples who witnessed it. For Jesus, the transfiguration was an affirmation of his Father’s love and a foretaste of his glory.
For Peter, James and John, the transfiguration was a vivid revelation, a preview, of Jesus’s full identity; fully human and fully divine. While the three of them knew and loved Jesus, the carpenter from Galilee, in the transfiguration they got a glimpse of his divinity; Jesus, the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, the completion of the Law (represented by Moses) and the prophets (represented by Elijah).

Jesus in the mystery of the Holy Trinity; the voice of the Father, the transfigured Son and the Holy Spirit brilliantly animated in the clouds and the light as bright as the sun.

An awesome experience beyond description; impossible to describe adequately. How can one describe an encounter with God? The three of them must have been frightened out of their wits and shaken right out of their sandals.

The transfiguration took place about a week after Jesus had spoken to his disciples for the first time about his pending suffering, death and resurrection. And you’ll recall that to Peter the whole idea of Jesus dying was unthinkable and he’d protested strongly; and Jesus had rebuked him sternly rejecting the temptation that Peter presented to him to walk away from the cross “Get behind me Satin.” This rebuke must have come as a real shock to Peter and bruised his ego and his relationship with Jesus.

The transfiguration, coming just days after this misunderstanding, was surely a turning point in Peter’s understanding of Jesus; Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

In today’s Second Reading Peter recalls his experience of the transfiguration to remind the early Christians that he stands as a personal witness to Jesus’s majesty and divinity.

In the law in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 19:15) three witnesses are required to attest to the truth. The truth of the transfiguration was witnessed by Peter, James and John.

All of us believe in an intellectual way that God is with us. But sometimes we wish for a mountain-top experience to make that intellectual belief a tangible reality in our lives. Often God’s presence is not obvious to us in the cruel, corrupt world in which we live and in the everyday challenges of our lives.

We might wish that we could have an experience like the transfiguration. Wish that God would appear to us in a way that could not be mistaken for anything else; preferably an encounter that we would share with other witnesses who could vouch for this truth.

Perhaps then we’d find it easier to love God and love our neighbour; easier to be faithful disciples.

Well it didn’t work that way for Peter, James, and John. This experience on the mountain didn’t take away the ambition of James and John to be singled out for special treatment. They wanted a distinctive place kept for them in God’s kingdom (Matthew 20:20). The transfiguration didn’t take away their selfish pride and hunger for recognition. Or their doubt. They deserted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and left him to die.

We know about Peter.

Even the transfiguration didn’t heal his doubt. He cowered in fear when Jesus was arrested and then publicly professed that he didn’t know the man.

Even the sight of the resurrected Jesus was not a fool proof experience for some of Jesus’ followers. Matthew tells us in chapter 28 that after the crucifixion “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”

As much as we might wish for a dramatic display of God’s power and presence we’re not likely to receive one. We build our faith on the testimony of those who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and on the witness and evidence of God’s presence in our lives and the lives of the many saints who have gone before us; the Presence of Jesus among us and within us.

Most of us have had an experience of the presence of God.

An experience that we can’t adequately describe or explain but one which has left us with no doubt that we have encountered something beautiful that’s out of this world.

Perhaps in prayer or meditation we’ve been overcome with a sense of joy and peace.

Or perhaps the sudden recognition of the majesty of creation in a sunrise or sunset or star lit night that leaves us speechless.

Perhaps an exquisite piece of music or art that takes our breath away.

Perhaps a look or gesture of love from a child or someone we’ve touched with our kindness and compassion.

Perhaps the overwhelming awareness of God’s forgiveness in the words of absolute in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Or perhaps just the sheer happiness of being alive and knowing that we are God’s beloved; an unexpected feeling of certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Often these experiences happen when we least expect them.

But we’re come here specifically to encounter our Lord.

Are we not blessed indeed to have the Presence of Christ available to us in the Eucharist in the Mass? Let us never undervalue the magnitude and magnificence of this great Sacrament of the altar. This is the same Jesus that Peter, John and James encountered in the Transfiguration.

It’s not necessary to climb a mountain to experience the presence of God.

All we have to do is be attentive so that we don’t miss the time and place when God wants to enter more deeply into our lives.

eeply into our lives.

Do not be afraid

12th Sunday
Year A
2017 (25 June)
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

In the liturgical calendar, the two great Solemnities of Christmas and Easter are followed by a season of special celebration. The birth of Jesus is followed by the traditional 12 days of Christmas and Christ’s Resurrection is followed by the Easter season; 50 days of celebration concluding with Pentecost. After Pentecost, we enter into what is known as Ordinary Time which I like to think of as the season of Pentecost. We are living in Pentecostal time; the time of the Holy Spirit. We live as a community, as a Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit poured out on us.

And what happened on that first Pentecost Sunday? The Holy Spirit empowered those who were living in fear to come out of hiding and spread the good news throughout the world. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to step out of the shadows into the light. The courage to conquer our fears and witness to Jesus Christ.

In day’s Gospel Jesus says three times “Have no fear” and those words can only be a reality in our lives when we embrace the Spirit of Pentecost; embrace the Holy Spirit; embrace the gifts of the Spirit given to us in the Sacraments.

Fear is an emotion that we all experience. Many times, it can be a healthy reaction to situations in which we could be harmed; physically, spiritually or emotionally. When our fears are rational, they can motivate us to avoid people or places or situations that could threaten our wellbeing or safety.

However, when our fears hold us back from experiencing the abundance of God’s love in our lives, then they no longer protect us but rather imprison us. Some of those fears could be concerns about what other people think of us; the fear of being criticized, judged or ostracized; particularly about our faith. While it is natural that we want to be liked, loved and accepted by others, we should not let other people’s expectations and our fears have the strongest voice in directing our lives and our relationship with God.

Our greatest fear, says Jesus, should be of doing anything that would separate us from the Father. Anytime we shy away from professing our faith, our love and our trust in Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are moving to separate ourselves from the Father.

Jesus says “Everyone who acknowledges me to the world, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me to the world, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”

I’m reminded of an incident in a book that I read as a boy called “Tom Brown’s Schooldays.”

The book recounts Tom’s experiences as a boarder at an all boy’s school called Rugby, in Warwickshire in England (and which incidentally is the birthplace of rugby football).

Tom shared a dormitory with about a dozen other boys and was the undisputed leader of his gang of friends. One day a new boy came to the school. When it came to bedtime the new boy innocently knelt down by his bed to say his prayers. Some of the boys began to snicker and laugh and make jokes and one even threw a shoe at the kneeling boy.

That night Tom lay awake thinking about what had happened to the new boy. He also began to think about his mother and the prayers she had taught him to say each night before going to bed, prayers he had not said since he came to school.

The next night several of the boys were looking forward to poking fun again at the new boy but something totally unexpected happened. When the new boy knelt down to say his prayers, Tom knelt down next to him. And the whole atmosphere of the dormitory changed and quite soon many of the other boys followed their example.

Bearing witness to Jesus, or not bearing witness to him, can have a profound effect on those around us.

Perhaps the most important area in which this happens is in the home. Tom Brown was influenced by his mother’s example and he, in turn, gave witness to the other boys and influenced their behaviour.

We are called to bear witness to our faith without fear; in and out of our homes in everything we do.

The example of our lives may be the only Gospel that some people will ever read.

Jesus loves me this I know

Good Friday
Les Ruhrmund

Crucifixion was a familiar method of execution used by the Romans at the time of Jesus and was an excruciatingly painful procedure resulting in a slow and agonising death. It was for this very reason that it was used as a deterrent to would be traitors and criminals. We’re told by historians that many of the soldiers who were tasked to carry out crucifixions were traumatised by the experience and would fortify themselves with wine beforehand.

Jesus says to us from the cross this afternoon: You have tortured me and put me through this most terrible suffering, yet I love you. There is nothing you can do in this world that would change my love for you. The Father says to us: Do you believe now how much I love you? My beloved son has died so that you may live with me in God’s kingdom.

Prior to the crucifixion of Jesus, there was no access to the kingdom. Human creation was completely cut off from God. None of the great people of scripture who proceeded Jesus were in the kingdom; not Abraham nor Isaac, nor Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, nor any of the other great prophets; not even John the Baptist had access to the Father’s kingdom. The Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus opened the gateway to the Father and saved all humankind from eternal darkness. This is the greatest story ever told.

In John’s Passion we hear a variety of questions asked by different people who participated in the Passion of Jesus and I’d like to reflect simply on three of them:

“Who are you looking for? “Jesus asks twice.

“Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?” is the question that is twice put to Peter.

“So you are a king, then? “asks Pontius Pilate.

So who are we looking for?

Our answer is surely the same as the soldiers: Jesus of Nazareth. If that was not true, we wouldn’t be here this afternoon. In our own ways, for many different reasons we’re all looking for Jesus in our lives. His love sustains, nourishes, comforts and carries us as we struggle with our own crosses to our own Calvary and redemption. Few of us will get through this life without pain and suffering; be it emotional, physical or spiritual. Jesus didn’t come to eliminate pain and suffering; his crucifixion is proof enough of that. But Jesus has been there; he understands our fear and dread in the face of pain and death. We need Jesus in our lives. While the soldiers were looking to take Jesus into custody, we place ourselves in the custody of Jesus.

The second question is to Peter. Although he had sworn vehemently at supper the night before that he would never desert Jesus, when challenged, three times he insisted that he didn’t even know the man.  We can empathise with Peter given a stark choice of perhaps life and death but do we deny Jesus nevertheless though the stakes are not nearly as high?  In our homes, families, work places and recreation do we compromise our relationship with Jesus by saying and doing things that hurt others?  Are we the voice of Jesus, the voice of peace, in a grossly cruel and violent world?

We live in a world that is extensively connected through social media. We are able to communicate instantly with a great many people at the push of a button. Would it be obvious to anyone reading what we post on social media and our smart phones that we are another of that man’s disciples?

The third question is posed by Pilate.

Is Jesus king? Do we really believe that? King of our hearts, king of our lives?

Jesus says his kingdom is not of this world. Those who will be welcomed into his kingdom will be recognised by how they fed the hungry and the thirsty, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited prisoners. Hunger may not necessarily be a shortage of food. It may be a hunger for love, acceptance, tolerance, kindness and understanding.  In the same way we don’t necessarily have to visit a jail to visit prisoners. Many are prisoners of loneliness, depression, addictions and abuse. They all cry out for the healing touch of Jesus that we as disciples can bring them.

We are challenged to show true allegiance to our king through our actions. Not ambition, greed and status, not pious words and conspicuous devotions, but quiet revolutionary work of making the world a better place in which to live; better because we have made it better.

Each of us stands alone before Jesus on the cross. We stare at his broken body that cries out in love for us. We know we are not worthy of his great sacrifice but we also know that he loves us in our imperfection.

He has chosen to travel the same journey all over again, in, through and with each one of us. No wonder we call this solemn feast “Good Friday”. What greater goodness could we know than that the cross of Jesus reveals that God is our companion at every step of life’s journey? A compassionate God who grieves with us when we despair and is a companion to us in our darkest days. He is the hope with which we look for the light of resurrection in all our lives.

Lord change me !

 5th Sunday Lent
Year A
2 April 2017
Rev Les Ruhrmund

The readings on this 5th Sunday of Lent,  with only two weeks to go to Easter, revolve around life and death; literally, figuratively and spiritually.

In the 1st reading the prophet Ezekiel has a vision in which the dry bones of the dead are raised from their graves and brought to new life through the spirit of God. It’s a vision of a new beginning for Israel.

In the 2nd reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans we are reminded that we are born into this world in the flesh and through Baptism we are reborn in the Spirit. He says that ‘If Christ is in you, although our bodies are dead because of sin, our spirits are alive because of righteousness.’ Though we exist in the flesh, we live in the Spirit. It is in the weakness of our bodies that we ultimately find our strength in the Spirit.

In the gospel John tells us that through the death of Lazarus, the Son of God is glorified. Just as the blindness of the man in last week’s gospel served to show Jesus as the light, so the death of Lazarus will serve to show Jesus as the life.

While this reading from John’s gospel at first glance tells a powerful and moving story about an amazing event in Jesus’ life, typical of John’s writing, the words often have two meanings;  one which appears obvious and true, and the other that lies beneath the surface and is equally true.

As an example, at the beginning of the reading, after Jesus is told that his much loved friend Lazarus is ill he says: ‘This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

The obvious understanding is that the raising of Lazarus will be a visible sign of his divinity and his power over death and bring his disciples to a deeper faith and understanding of who he is.

But there’s more to it than that.

Throughout John’s gospel Jesus talks often about his glory in connection with the cross.  Jesus regarded the cross both as his supreme glory and as the way to glory. So when he said that the cure of Lazarus would glorify him, he was also saying that to go to Bethany and bring Lazarus back to life would lead to his own death on the cross. As indeed it did. In the verses immediately following the raising of Lazarus, we’re told that the Jewish authorities on hearing about the dramatic events in Bethany, from that day onwards planned to kill him.

A paradox: Lazarus’s return to life leads to Jesus‘s death; and the death of Jesus gives life to the world.

Jesus said to Martha and he says to us; ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?’

Well, do we really believe this?

Up until the moment that Lazarus walks out of the tomb, none of the people present really believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life; not Martha, Mary, the disciples nor the Jewish mourners.

They confessed their belief that he was a miracle worker and the long awaited Messiah sent by God but until that moment they didn’t understand that he is God.

Do we believe that? Do we believe that he calls us out of the tombs that we have created for ourselves and that he offers us new life? Do we believe that he can change us and restore us?

We don’t have to be dead physically to be in need of being raised up. We can be dead in the midst of life; spiritually dead, emotionally dead, vocationally dead, psychologically dead, dead to the endless possibilities of life.

We know our lives should be more joyful; more peaceful. We know we should be more loving, kind, forgiving and generous. But instead too often we are anxious, selfish, self-centred and cold hearted. We wrap our conscience in burial bandages and are dead to the cry of the poor, the afflicted, the persecuted, the homeless, the lonely and the lost.

Lazarus is given to us on this 5th Sunday of Lent to help us think about the tombs in which we lie hidden and the life to which we are called. The spirit of darkness, seduces most of us into believing that we can create our own happiness, that we know what is best for us and that we cannot change. We are kept bound by things about ourselves that we are afraid to share and that we allow to sway our thinking and our actions.

It might be a secret we can’t tell, a sin we’re unable to confess, a memory we can’t bury or a desire that challenges our Christian values.

This is the part of us that is buried in the tomb. We carefully guard and defend the entrance and we’re ashamed and afraid that if anyone rolls away the stone they’ll see the mess inside.

This Sunday Jesus stands at the entrance of our tombs and calls us out of them. We’re asked to face the behaviours and thoughts that keeps us entombed, to move away from shame, embrace repentance, recognise the price to be paid to be true to what’s best in ourselves. We’re invited to experience Christ’s healing and forgiveness.

This journey is not easy, but it’s what Lent is all about; the journey from the tomb, through penitence, to the new life of Easter.

In the miracle of the Eucharist that we’ve come together to celebrate, may we see the Lord, the resurrection and the life, standing at the entrance to our tombs calling us by name; “Come, come out !’

To which we might respond asking for our own miracle:

Lord, you are the resurrection and the life.

Change me.

Help me to want to be healed.