This weekend Fr. Steve spoke to our challenge to live in the Spirit of God. Too often, we live lives that our filled with distractions keeping us from the living in the Spirit of God. Often our own egos get in the way of letting the Spirit of God work in our lives. Jesus wants to free us from our burdens; he wants to call us out of our tombs so that we life lives in abundance within. With the “sheltering” restrictions, we have the opportunity to focus on the essentials – our lives with God, family and others.
I am always struck by the fact that Lazarus came forth from the tomb - bound up in the burial wrappings - he couldn't move freely. Yet, when Jesus came forth from his own tomb - where were the wrappings? --- rolled up in a corner of the tomb, Jesus wasn't held bound. Lazarus, however, was tied up - he was bound. So Jesus says, “Untie him and let him go free.” And others freed him after he had been dead for four days.
Again we are confronting another story of Jesus with several layers - talking about deep spiritual truths. Earlier in the 10th chapter of John, Jesus tells his listeners and us: "I have come that you may have life - life in abundance." And Jesus is talking about life in God, life in the Spirit. But do we want that? The Spirit of God is given us, the Spirit of Jesus is ours - and we are assured of that through our baptism. But the real question of the table is this: Do we want to live in the Spirit of God? How serious are we in living in Christ? Too often even as committed Christians and Catholics, we would rather stay in our tombs, we want others to stay in their tombs – because, we are comfortable being bound, and we want others to be bound. As the hymn, ‘Change our Hearts’ says, “Brought by your hand to the edge of our dreams, one foot in paradise, one in the waste; drawn by your promises, still we are lured by the shadows and the chains we leave behind.” Or “Now as we watch you stretch out your hands, offering abundances, fullness of joy. Your milk and honey seem distant, unreal, when we have bread and water in our hands.” Often we settle for too little – when God wants to give us abundance. What keeps us from living our everyday lives in Christ - in the Spirit of Jesus. Why do we stay in the tombs? What holds us bound?
I can think of many things but given today’s environment, I cannot help but think of that word, distractions. We have plenty of them in our lives and they can readily keep us from dealing with the deeper issues and questions of life. We are so distracted at times we do not even know we are distracted! What are some of the big ones? our I-phones, our computers and computer games, sports (both on television as well as our participation within them) , shopping, being a workaholic and the list can go on. By themselves they are not bad; however, when they distract us so much or dominate our lives so much that we do not deal with the bigger issues, they are a problem. One of the gifts of this Caronavirus pandemic, the mandated “sheltering” in our own homes, the seriousness of this threat to our health and our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones, is that it provides a real opportunity to clearly see what ultimately matters. This cloud and storm that currently surround us exposes how vulnerable we really are; while at the same time it exposes our false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and our priorities. In many ways we have allowed the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities to become dull and feeble – our faith, the gift of our family, the gifts of our friends. This cloud and storm can lay bare all of our false ideas of self-sufficiency. We are reminded of our need for God and for each other.
In many ways and as difficult these circumstances may be for each of us, this time can be a gift. Our God is calling us out of our tombs. Our God is calling us out of our tombs to new life! Now is the time to choose between what matters and what passes away; this is the time to choose what is necessary over and above the frivolous. If we are held bound, Jesus will untie us and set us free. Now is the time and wonderful opportunity to get our lives back on track with God and with others. It is Lent – the time for conversion and metanoia.