Homilette for March 4, 2008

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Ezekiel 47:1-9 and12; John 5:1-16)

“Crops grow where water flows.” The agricultural lobby posts signs along rural highways with this and similar messages. They want to remind the public that we should not take water for granted. It may fall from the sky, but often costly government programs have to preserve and channel water if it is to nurture life.

Both readings today illustrate the life-giving power of water. In the reading from the prophet Ezekiel the Temple waters flow to produce abundant plant and aquatic life. We should see this water as a kind of grace that provides both nutrition and healing for God’s people. In the reading from the Gospel of John the crippled man cannot avail himself of the Temple waters so Jesus heals him directly. Jesus becomes a more reliable fount of grace than the Temple waters which stir only intermittently and whose effectiveness fades.

Jesus can come to us in ten thousand ways. But the channels that he has formally established are the seven sacraments. In Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Healing, Marriage and Orders Jesus both heals us and empowers us to serve others. We should not take these sacraments for granted. To keep grace flowing in our lives we need to take advantage of the Sacraments of Penance and of Eucharist regularly and of the other sacraments when occasions for them call.

Homilette for March 3, 2008

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Isaiah 65:17-21; John 4:43-54)

The Prospect of Immortality was written over forty years ago in an age of extravagant optimism. It describes the possibility of deep-freezing people at death so that they may be thawed when cures for their ailments are discovered. Since then, to my knowledge, there have been no accounts of successful revitalization. However, there have been reports of rotting cadavers of people who paid to have their dead bodies frozen. Despite this dismal reality, the book remains in print!

It has been said that no one will get out of this world alive. Then what of our belief in the resurrection? In the first reading, Isaiah offers the springboard to this belief. God -- the prophet tells us -- will create a new earth where people live hundreds of years. We believe that this new creation has been actualized in Jesus Christ. He saves people from death as we see in the gospel today. He raises people from the dead as we shall hear in next Sunday’s gospel. And he will rise from the dead himself to live in eternal glory. We can assure ourselves that there is no “prospect of immortality” besides the hope of the resurrected Jesus redeeming us from death.

We have entered the final weeks of Lent. Now we focus not so much on the sacrifices we make but on all that Jesus promises. Most wonderfully he promises us everlasting life with him. Like the royal official of the gospel, let us not demand that he accompany us physically in our needs. Rather, let us trust that he will be there to rescue us from death when we conform our ways to his.