RELIGIOUS EDUCATION CONGRESS: CLOSING MASS 2018

Homily ·Lent
By Archbishop Gomez
Anaheim, California
March 18, 2018


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1

Once again, we had a great weekend, didn’t we?

It is such a joy to see your faith and your commitment to God. It gives me strength and it inspires me. So, thank you for your witness, your service to the Church — and for sharing your faith with me and with all of us these past few days.  

Thank you to you all!

The powerful readings of today’s liturgy remind us that it will not be long until Easter Sunday.

The beautiful Gospel story about Lazarus and his sisters, it is a story about you and me — and about the promise of salvation that Jesus brings.

In the Gospel today, Jesus puts this question to Martha. He says to her: “Your brother will rise.” But then he challenges her. He asks her: “Do you believe this?

And my brothers and sisters, Jesus is asking that same question today — to you and to me.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ can raise our brothers and sisters from the dead?

Do we believe that he can “take away the stone” of their hardened hearts and give them a new heart and a new spirit?

Do we believe that Jesus Christ can call to our brothers and sisters, just as he called to Lazarus: “Rise up! !Levántate!

Do we believe that he can untie all the knots that tangle and bind our lives — and set us free to truly live as God created us to live?

And my dear brothers and sisters, I know you believe this. That is why you are here. This is why you have chosen to commit your lives to serving Jesus and the mission of his Church.

We are all here — because we believe what Martha believes. We all share in her beautiful confession of faith: “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world”?

We know that Jesus is One who was promised by the prophet Ezekiel in that first reading we heard today. “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.

Jesus is the One who is coming. But we are the ones who must bring him into our world.

Jesus Christ comes into the world through you and through me.

Now, I want to share some words and the example of one holy woman of our times, the Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl.

I have been reading Madeleine Delbrêl and talking about her witness for a long time. But I started reflecting on her again recently because at the start of Lent, Pope Francis declared her “venerable.”

And I’ve been talking about her a lot recently and, as a matter of fact, this past Thursday for the Youth Day at the homily, I talked about her — so you were here for that day, so you know everything about her!

But I’ve been talking about her because I believe she is an important witness for us about what it means to have proclaim Christ in our time.

She has a great story. As some of you may know, she lived near Paris, France and she died in 1964. When she was a young girl, Madeleine was artistic, a poet, and she loved to go to parties and go out dancing with her friends. Not bad, eh?

At age 15, she lost her faith. She described herself as a “strict atheist.” She said that every day, for her, the world seemed more and more absurd. She even wrote a kind of “manifesto” when she was 17. It was called “God is dead — long live death!” It was scary stuff that she was writing.

But Madeleine did find God. Or, as she liked to say, God found her.

She heard the voice of Jesus and he led her to seek holiness and to continue his mission in the streets of Paris, living among the poor and the ordinary workers.

But her personal experience as an atheist helped her to understand the world that we are living in. And through her eyes, we can start to understand the pain of so many people who can no longer hear God’s voice or feel his love.

She said that in those years when she was lost and without God, and I quote: “At the time, I would have given the whole world just to know why I was in it.”2

That is such a sad, beautiful line. And as you know from your own ministries, this, sadly,  describes the reality of so many people in our society today.

We are living in times when many people have lost their “why.” They no longer know the answer to basic questions. Why do we get up in the morning? What purpose are we living for?

But my dear brothers and sisters, you know and I know — that the human heart is made for God.

So, this must be our mission as Christians — as Catholics — our mission as the Church.

We are called to speak to the hearts of our neighbors. We are called to tell them what every heart longs to know — the good news about who they are and why they are in the world!

We are called to tell them to rise up! !Levántate!

Let us be the voice of Jesus Christ to the people who are “Lazarus” in our time!

By the witness of our lives, by our words and actions, let us help Jesus to tear down all the walls of death — so that our brothers and sisters can rise up and live in the light of his freedom and love!

And may our Blessed Mother Mary watch over you and keep us all close to the heart of Jesus.

1. Readings (Fifth Sunday of Lent): Ezek. 27:12-14; Ps. 130:1-8; Rom. 8:8-11; John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45.

2We, the Ordinary People of the Streets, 8.

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