Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homily for Closing Liturgy - Wednesday of 4th Week of Lent

            Your retreat is coming to an end just as we enter into the holiest part of our Christian year. We've had a respite from the labors of Lent as we celebrated three festive days in a row amid weather that is more suited to May than mid-March. The promise of spring helps us look forward to an Easter season in full bloom. We have been graced in the silence of this week. Perhaps you have come to a place of stillness too.

            Jesus makes strong statements in the Gospel to indicate what he and the Father are doing. It is quite a litany of support. He and the Father are one; all power comes from God, he continues to labor for us; he honors, he is the unique revealer of God; he raises the dead and gives life; he judges justly, and greater works are promised for our amazement. Perhaps you were amazed by God this retreat. Maybe God revealed something about God's self or something about you that has been profound. Maybe God showed up and touched some area of your relationship that makes you feel more secure. God promises to stand by your side.

            Maybe Christ spoke to you in a way we must learn to trust. Perhaps, Christ didn't speak words of clarity as we want to hear in human relationships, but we received a message from him that feels right and we can trust. We have to grow in our familiarity with this way of hearing his voice. Christ relates to us uniquely - in a personalized style that differs for each of us. He speaks to the heart of the matter. We find this familiar way in all relationships whether - one of our parents sang us a particular soothing lullaby when we were scared at night, or we had a particular theme song for our wedding or vow ceremony, or private routine or way of relating to a special friendship. We have our rites and customs to bring meaning to those events. Christ does this too. He helps us remember certain people or memories on retreat or arranges coincidences that make us stop and take notice. It sometimes stops us in our tracks and we turn away from our focus upon ourselves to relate more outwardly to other. Cherish those times and trust they are from Christ. They will endure.

            Christ tells us something provocative in the Gospel that can be very comforting. His words, his way of relating, is powerful enough for even the dead to hear. His power penetrates beyond death and we can still know of the ways he speaks to us. This is tremendous. So, fear not, if you are stuck in your prayer and figure that you are in a position where there is something profoundly within you that is blocking his voice from reaching you, know that his power is strong enough to break through to reach you. Be patient with yourself. Be gentle too. Christ will not give up on you and you will be able to recognize and get comfortable with his soft approach towards you. Never give up on the relationship. Trust that he will not stop trying.

            The words of Isaiah are consoling. He speaks in the present tense. He reassures us that God answers our prayers, that he will help us. He restores us to good grace in him and sets us free - from ourselves and whatever holds us captive. He calls us to live as fully, as healthily, and as happily as we can be. Just as a mother cannot forget or show her infant tenderness, he will always remember you.

            Keep your eyes focused on him as we enter Holy Week. The brutality of the events can kick up painful memories, but listen to what he says to you in his most vulnerable moment. He goes to the Cross for you so he can bring meaning into your sufferings and joys. Continue to ask him how he feels - rather than being concerned about what he thinks. Look for those personal ways that he wants to reveal something to you. These messages endure. These messages re-orient your life towards greater charity, compassion, and understanding. Be with him as a companion. Give him what he needs during his moment of trial - a sympathetic gesture, a kindly face - and he will remember your goodness - even beyond death.