My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We celebrate this Mass in honor of the memory of our brother, César Chávez. And we also remember his wife, Helen Fabela Chavez, who died last year, June 6, 2016. May she rest in peace and let us pray that she has received her eternal reward.
As you know this past Friday, March 31 would have been Cesar’s 90th birthday. So today we celebrate his life, we thank God for his witness, and we try to learn from his legacy.
I have been thinking a lot about César lately.
As we all know, these are troubling times in our country, times of fear and uncertainty — especially for our brothers and sisters who are immigrants and refugees.
In these times, I think we can find courage and inspiration in reading the history of Caesar Chávez and the farmworkers’ movement.
We need to have the kind of faith that César had. He trusted in God. And he trusted that his “cause” was just — because he was working for human dignity and freedom.
At the heart of César’s vision was the Sermon on the Mount — the great teaching of Jesus Christ about nonviolence and loving our enemies.
César used to say: “The force that is generated by the spirit of love is more powerful than any force on earth. It cannot be stopped.”
We see that same Spirit of love at work in the readings from the Word of God we heard today in this Holy Mass.
The lesson in these readings is that God’s Spirit of love is stronger than death. God’s Spirit is so powerful that he can bring the dead back to life!
In the first reading that we heard today, from the prophet Ezekiel, we hear God himself make this promise.
I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land …
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land.
This is a promise of love — a promise of deliverance and liberation.
What God has promised, God will deliver. In his time, according to his plan. We need to have patience — and remember that word means suffering. We should expect suffering and struggle. But we should never doubt that God will do what he has promised to do.
Trust in God — always! He will not disappoint you. He will never abandon you.
The beautiful Gospel story that we just heard — the beautiful story that we all know about Jesus’ friends, the sisters Martha and Mary and their brother, Lazarus.
This is a story about trusting in God, about trusting in the power of his love.
Think about the story we just heard. Think about how you would feel if you were there.
Jesus has come to the village — only to find that his friend Lazarus is dead! And he has already been in his grave for four days.
Martha and Mary are filled with pain and mourning. It is so emotional for Jesus, that the Gospel tells us he begins to cry. It is the shortest verse in the Gospel — and maybe the most touching. Just three words: “And Jesus wept.”
A beautiful, dramatic scene. It really shows us the humanity of Jesus, his human nature.
Yet this is not the end of the story. Because this is a story about the power of God’s love, the power of God’s Spirit.
So Jesus asks Martha if she believes in him, if she trusts in his promise. We heard those great words:
I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?
And we heard Martha respond with great faith: “Yes, Lord!”
My brothers and sisters, when we hear Jesus asking someone a question in the Gospels, we should know that this question is meant for us, too.
And today, Jesus challenges us — just as he challenged Martha. Do we believe that he can bring life out of death? Do we believe in the power of his love?
We know that our answer is yes1 That is the reason for our presence here today. But every year, during the Liturgical season of Lent, we have the opportunity of renewing our faith. These weeks of Lent and especially next week, Holy Week that we start a week from today, is a time of conversion, of a change, of growing in our faith.
As, Martha did, we tell Jesus today, “Yes, Lord!” We believe that you are the resurrection and the life. “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world”
So today, let us believe in this Spirit of love, this Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. Let us believe — like Martha and Mary did, like our brother, César Chavez did.
Jesus promises us today: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.”
So let us keep on believing. Let us ask God today to increase our faith, to help us when we doubt and when we get discouraged.
Jesus is walking with us in this journey. We are never alone. We have each other. And we have God.
Let us put our trust in God who will help us to find the solution for the situation of our brothers and sisters immigrants and refugees. Trusting God and growing in our faith, knowing that with God we can do everything. As we are reflecting on today. God can do everything, even bringing life out of death.
Let us ask Mary, the Virgin Mother of Guadalupe, to intercede for us to have a real conversion this Lent and Holy Week. And may She continue to go with us and give us courage and strength.
1. Readings (Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A): Ezek. 37:12-14; Ps. 130:1-8; Rom. 8:8-11; John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45.