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Exploring the Spiritual Realities of Lent
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

THE  FOLLOWING are  excerpts  from  the homily  of  Fr.  Jeffrey Quintela, parish priest of San Isidro Labrador Parish in Marikina during  the  Mission  Core Gathering  of Metro Manila leaders on April 2,  2017  at  the  Ynares Gym  in  Pasig.  Some phrases and  sentences in  Tagalog  have  been translated into English.

My  dear  friends we  are  now  on  the  5th Sunday of Lent. I don’t know if in your parishes, your parish priests or those who are in charge of  the  church  have  already covered  the  images inside the church. This  is  because  we  are enjoined  not  only to observe  fasting  of  the mouth, which we began on Ash Wednesday, but we also begin today fasting of the eyes. 

When we began Lent, we  were  told  to  fast from  many  things—the  mouth,  the ears, there  is  no  singing  of alleluia,  no  singing  or saying of Gloria. If you notice, churches also do not have flowers during this season, because our eyes are being asked to fast  from  such  feasts of  color.  We  are  told to  fast  so  that  we  can anticipate  even  more the coming of Easter. 

Our  anticipation  is now getting higher, our hearts  grow  more  on fire  because  the scenes of  Lent  become  more intense.   If  you  notice, the  Gospel  readings  of the past  three  Sundays delve  into  deeper  discourse.  For  example, the reading on the third Sunday  of  Lent  was about  the  Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well  and where  Jesus said that He is the water that gives life. Thirst is a condition of the soul. If our souls are thirsty for God,  who  can  quench our thirst? None other than Jesus Christ who is the living water. Last Sunday, the 4th Sunday  of  Lent,  the 

Gospel  was  about  the man born blind. So now the situation is no longer the soul’s thirst for God  which  cannot  be quenched  because  of the presence of sin. Now there is  also  blindness. But again, it is Jesus who is the answer because He is the light of the world. This Sunday, the last before Holy Week, before Palm Sunday, the 

Gospel speaks not just of  thirst,  not  just  of blindness but it speaks of  death.  This  is the extreme situation – our soul is not just thirsty for  the  living  water, not  just  blind  to the truth,  but  it  has  died because of sin. At  the  beginning of  this  passage,  Jesus said,  ‘this  illness  is not  to  end  in  death’. 

But seemingly He was wrong.  Lazarus  indeed  died.   But  Jesus was  actually  telling his  audience,  and  us, that  we  need  to  relax and not worry. Back then, people said, Jesus healed  the  blind  and sick,  but  why  was  it that he could not save his friend from death? 

Jesus  was  saying  that healing  the  sick  and the blind is no longer anything new. He was about to do something that  will  be  for  the glory of God and that the son of God may be glorified through him. Now, here are some spiritual realities. When  Jesus finally came to where Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary lived, Lazarus had already been dead  for  four  days. 

Jesus’  first  words  to Martha  were  “Your brother  will  rise” and “I am the resurrection and  the  life; whoever  believes  in me,  even  if  he  dies, will  live,”  And  the Gospel goes  on  to narrate that in front of  the  people,  “Jesus wept.”   He  wept  because in his being human, he felt the pain of bitterness and loss. Brothers and sisters, in  the same  way,    do you  think  we  are  the first to weep because of our  sinfulness?   That we  are  the  only  ones in agony because of it? 

No.  God  weeps  first when man is bound to sin. God weeps over our sinfulness. You can just imagine the feeling of a  father  whenever  his child,  his  son  or  his daughter is in sin. That is what Jesus feels too. Jesus weeps over the death of a person in sin but it doesn’t end there. 

Listen  to  the  question of  Jesus:  ‘Where  have you laid him?’ You see my  dear friends,  despite  our sinfulness, God  is  always  ready to  look  for  us.  God  is always ready  to  find us, to find you, to find me. You think you are looking for God?Think again,  God  looks  for you all the more.

When  Jesus  asked “where  have  you  laid him,” he was saying, “I want to see him, I want to find him.” So they went to the tomb. And Jesus saw the stone that was  rolled in front  of the tomb and he commanded that the stone be rolled away. 

Now  they  took away  the  stone.  And Jesus  cried  out  in  a loud voice: Lazarus, come  out!   We  read of  Jesus  raising  his voice  only  in  a  few instances—when  he drove  out  the  vendors from the temple, when hanging on the cross,  he  cried,   ‘My God,  my  God  why have  you  forsaken me?’  and  just  before he  expired,  he  cried out ‘Father into your hands,  I  commend my spirit.’ 

This is the same loud voice  that  stilled  the wind  and  the  storm, the  same  voice that said  “Let  there  be light”  and  there  was light. Whatever he says comes  to  pass.   Thus, when we receive Communion,  we  know  for sure  that  it  is indeed his body and his blood because  he  said  so. “This is my body. This is my blood.” When we hear  the  voice  of  the priest saying after our Confession that “Your sins  are  forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the  Holy  Spirit,”  it  is God actually saying “I forgive you.”

Lazarus  came  out, still  bound  in  burial  wrappings.   Jesus said,  untie  him  and let him  go.  That  is what  happens  when we  are  forgiven,  we are  untied,  we  are free. Free  from  the clutches of the devil. Free from sinfulness. As  we  prepare  for Holy Week, let us prepare  ourselves.  Let  us free ourselves from the clutches of sin but that is  only  possible  if  we allow  God  to find  us, to look for us.



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