March 29: Shelter in Place!(Lent 5 A)

“The sisters of Lazarus send word to Jesus to inform him, ‘Lord the one you love is sick.'” John 11, 1-45.

Today’s gospel is the story of Jesus’s return to Bethany, that place of friendship and hospitality. Here, Jesus encounters Martha and Mary in their grief, and weeps with them, over the death of their brother and his friend.

Back in September, I was in Bergen County, New Jersey, at Presentation Parish in Upper Saddle River, where we were videotaping one of our Sunday to Sunday episodes. With my video crew, in the early evening, we returned from dinner to the rectory where we were staying, only to find the parking lot packed with cars. Marvelous, what could be going on?

Soon I discovered that this was the very first night of a parish ministry of “grief counseling” for those who recently lost a loved one. So many people, so many tears: how do you explain death as Jesus would most especially to young people, like yourselves, or anyone in grief at the loss of a son, daughter, father, or wife?

Grief itself has many stages, but our task is to give meaning to our pain to truly appreciate this new and eternal life. In the shadow of his cross, Jesus restores Lazarus to life, among the most remarkable scenes in John’s gospel.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus tells us: “I have come that you may have life and that you may live it more abundantly. I am the resurrection and the life…and whoever believes in me will come to life.”

In the days before Ash Wednesday, I presided at a Reconciliation Service in our Rosary Chapel. Most of us were wondering: What do I give up for Lent?  Well, now we know!

We are “sheltering in place” and giving up so much of what we take for granted. At the moment, we’re adjusting to a “new normal,” learning and teaching via Zoom, talking to friends and relatives over the telephone, working from home, or checking out video games or Netflix, and keeping a safe distance because of the health concerns about COVID-19.

Right now, all around us, despite the apparent inconveniences, we are trying to make sense of it, coping with our losses, and giving meaning to life.

Some very ordinary people are doing very extraordinary things to help make these transitions in our educational community, our health, and hospitals, public safety, in the everyday shopping at the supermarket, or making our seniors as comfortable as possible.

Your acts of kindness, your smile can feed the soul, and count all the more!

Here’s a lesson for all of us – from Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

Be kind and merciful. Let no one come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. In the slums, we are the light of God’s kindness to the poor. To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely, always give a happy smile – Give them not only your care but also your heart.

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

During the past week, I have been reviewing several web-based live-video streaming of Masses. One of the very best comes from Saint Monica, Santa Monica, CA.

Under the leadership of Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, one of the country’s finest preachers, this parish is a model of active ministry. A few years ago, parishioners felt the need for a media ministry that includes the live-streaming of daily Mass.

So go to Mass this Sunday at Saint Monica’s —  at either 9:30 AM or 5:30 PM. Here’s the link:

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