My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
What a glorious few days this has been! Such energy and passion. Thank you for sharing your dedication to Jesus Christ and his Gospel and his Catholic Church!
There is a beautiful movement in the readings from sacred Scripture that we have just heard.
In our first reading, from the prophet Ezekiel, we hear the voice of God promising to his people that he will open their graves and fill them with his Holy Spirit — so that they will rise to join him in new life. Then in our second reading, St. Paul talks about the promise of our Baptism, in which we receive the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead. And finally, in our Gospel, we hear the beautiful story of Mary and Martha and the raising of their brother, Lazarus, from the dead.
In our liturgy today, our holy Church is preparing us for the “hour” of Jesus. The hour of his Passover, the hour of his passion and death and resurrection. The hour in which God our Father fulfills his loving plan for history, by making a new covenant in the blood of his only Son.
All of this holy season of Lent anticipates the “hour” of Jesus. And for those of us who are ministers in his Church, this hour has a special meaning.
Because we are still living in this “hour,” my brothers and sisters. And we will be until the end of time. St. John called this “the last hour” — the final age, the hour of his Holy Spirit and his holy Catholic Church.2
That’s why what you do in your ministries is so important. Jesus gave his Church the mission to extend his “hour” — to proclaim his salvation to the ends of the earth until the end of time.
Catechesis is at the heart of this mission. Because catechesis is about making disciples of Jesus — so that men and women of every nation can come to the resurrection, can come to new life in his name.
So this is more than a job that you have. What you do is a part of God’s plan of redeeming love. His plan for the world. His plan for every human soul. We can never forget that.
That’s why every day, every one of us in the Church has to make a kind of act of faith. We have to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves that we are servants of this beautiful mission that Jesus Christ gave to his Catholic Church.
A great saint of the 20th century used to pray the Creed every day, and when he got to the part about the Church, he would say: “I believe in the holy Catholic Church, in spite of everything.”
One day one of his friends asked him what he meant. And the saint replied: “I mean in spite of my sins and yours.”3
Yes, when we work in the Church, we see every day what we might call the “human dimension.” But we know that the Church is not only human. She is also divine. It’s not our Church, it’s his Church.
And one of the great mysteries is that God desires to exercise his divine purposes through earthen vessels like you and me.4 This is the same principle as the sacraments. God uses the ordinary materials of bread and wine, water and oil, to communicate his spiritual and supernatural gifts. And he uses us, ordinary people, to communicate his extraordinary truth.
That’s why it’s important for us to renew our faith every day. Every day we have to love Jesus Christ and to strive to be more like him. Every day we have to struggle against our selfishness and pride; against our desire to pursue our own agendas; our need to be “right.”
My brothers and sisters, our mission is very simple. We have to be like St. Martha in the Gospel today.
Her brother has just died. But in her pain, Martha makes no demands, no complaints. She speaks to Jesus like a friend. That’s how it should be with us. We need to always have that intimate friendship with Jesus. We need to be in conversation with Jesus in all the joys and sadness of our lives. We need to be people of prayer.
But something else we notice about St. Martha today. She makes a remarkable confession of faith. She says: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
This is amazing. In all the Gospels, only St. Peter makes such a personal confession of faith. And we, my brothers and sisters, we need that same faith — that Jesus is the One. The Savior of this world and the Savior of every soul.
But St. Martha goes even farther in her confession of faith that even Peter. She confesses also her faith in the resurrection of the dead.
Then something very important happens. St. Martha’s faith in Jesus, her faith in the resurrection, leads her to evangelize. It leads her first to reach out to her sister, Mary. She says — “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”
That’s the essence of catechesis, my brothers and sisters. That’s the essence of evangelization.
Our task is to bring others to the Teacher. To the encounter with the Jesus Christ. So that they realize that he is here, that he is alive and present in our world and in our lives. Our task is to help others to hear the call of Jesus. So that they understand that he is asking for them, too. So that they understand that he wants them to follow him.
In the Gospel we hear Jesus calling to Lazarus. Calling him by name. “Lazarus, come out!”
My brothers and sisters, Jesus is still crying out to the men and women of our time. And he has entrusted his Voice to his Catholic Church. He has entrusted his Voice to each one of us.
So be his Voice! Teach Jesus Christ and teach him with confidence. Help our brothers and sisters to hear his Voice. To hear Jesus calling them by name to come out. To come out of their tombs. To come out of all the prisons that we make for ourselves — from out our selfishness and our brokenness and our sinfulness. Help the men and women of our time to follow the call of Jesus and come out into the new light of the resurrection!
One more point for your teaching. I hope you will always tell the stories of the saints and try to follow their example in your ministries. The saints are the “lived Gospel.” They show us the beautiful possibilities of Christian living.
One of our newest American saints is Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai. She’ll be canonized in October. She was an immigrant from Germany. She came to upstate New York with her parents in the mid-1880s.
She was a Franciscan sister and was serving as a provincial when one day she got a letter from authorities in Hawaii asking her to send sisters to care for the lepers in the leper colony there.
Sometimes, that’s how the Voice of Jesus speaks to us. Through a routine letter. Through a chance encounter or conversation. And that’s how Mother Marianne read this letter — as the Voice of Jesus calling to her.
She went to Hawaii in 1883 and never came back. For the next 35 years, she gave herself to his calling in love and sacrifice, serving the bodies and souls of those poorest of the poor.
Mother Marianne used to say: “Time is flying. Let us make use of the fleeting moments. They will never return. ... Let us try in the name of God to do what we can for his greater honor and glory.”5
That’s the attitude we need for our ministries, my brothers and sisters. All for God and his glory!
So let’s thank God in this holy Mass for this great blessing we have — to be able serve Jesus in this “hour” of his Spirit and his Church.
I entrust you all to the patroness of this great Archdiocese, Our Lady of the Angels. Through her intercession, may we always be listening for the Voice of her Son. May we open ourselves to allow his Word to take root in our hearts, and bear fruit in our ministries.
1. Readings (5th Sunday of Lent — Year A Scruntinies): Ezek. 37:12-14; Ps. 130:1-8; Rom. 8:8-11; John 11:1-45.
2. 1 John 2:18; Catechism 607, 670, 1165.
3. St. Josemaría Escrivá quoted in Portillo, Immersed in God (Scepter, 1996), 3-4.
4. 2 Cor. 4:7.
5. Hanley, A Song of Pilgrimage and Exile (Franciscan herald, 1979), 376, 389.