At Mass for the fifth Sunday of lent, 29 March, Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry delivered a homily on the Gospel of John 11. Bishop McKeown examined the words of Jesus, “I am the Resurrection and the life”, and outlined the meaning of the story of Lazarus for our society, especially as we face the Covid-19 crisis.
During his homily, Bishop McKeown noted that in these times many of us are facing the temporary loss of our routines, family structures and pass-times. In response to this new reality, Bishop McKeown reminded us, “Jesus asks us not to be afraid of the tombs where so many of our plans and boasts appear to have been buried. As with the apostles and Martha, Jesus says to us ‘I want to show you a different way of looking at things.’ Face this temporary ‘bereavement’ with hope and confidence that God is in the midst of it, putting everything in a new perspective.”
As the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of service to the other, particularly vulnerable people, Bishop McKeown challenged the self centred culture we now live in. Commenting on the many dangers of a self-centred society, the Derry Bishop emphasised “Jesus raises Lazarus’ body. For followers of Jesus, our bodies are sacred. We were made in the image and likeness of God.
“That dignity of the body is the context for our understanding of the sacredness of human life and our morality. That faith frees us from the widespread conviction that we have to sacrifice our human dignity at the altar of our deepest drives. It is a very destructive belief that the groin is God – and, yet, that is the deadly message that much of our culture is spewing out.
“Jesus’ staggering assertion that he is the Resurrection and the Life challenges us to move beyond the belief that each adult is the author and Lord of life. A belief in the God-given nature and destiny of all human life liberates us from slavery to the agenda of me locked into the cold tomb of my lonely little me-centred universe.”
In conclusion, Bishop McKeown addressed the fear people may have the the coronavirus is outside our control. He said, “A tiny virus is paralysing the vast and complex systems that we have created. We can send rockets into the vast reaches of space, but an invisible killer is threatening us. And we do not know what the future will look like after this has passed. But whatever happens, Jesus tells us that he is Lord of life and death. Life comes from God and death is subject to him.
“In dark days then and now, the Lord invites us to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He asks us to journey on, not crushed by a culture of death or by a fear of the unknown. He is in charge. Easter always follows Calvary. It is this faith and hope that will see us through dark days.”