5th Sunday of Lent: Lazarus

For this week’s homily please watch the video below.

Some years ago I visited Bethany where Lazarus was raised from the dead. My community, the Passionists, has a retreat house there, called appropriately, St. Martha. I visited the tomb of  Lazarus, which is not far from there. As I approached there was a group of about 30 pilgrims with their priest ahead of me. They were obviously  from Eastern Europe.  I guessed they might have been from the Ukraine or Lithuania or Russia. I stayed outside as they went down into the tomb.  

 During the 2nd World War over 40 million people were killed by Hitler and Stalin in what’s been called “The Bloodlands,”  parts of Eastern Europe that were fought over so viciously. That part of the world is “The Bloodlands” again. Were these people going down to the tomb from that part of the world, bringing memories of  “The Bloodlands,” I wondered? 

They started to sing in harmony their beautiful eastern chants and the haunting, glorious music came up from the dark cavern below. Lazarus was being celebrated again and his tomb rang with their joyful song.

The dark tomb was still ringing with their singing when I went in.  A joyful song from a tomb. That’s the powerful message from our gospel today which prepares us for the life-giving death of Jesus. “Lazarus, come out!” A promise to us.

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