Ezekiel 37:12-14; Ps 130:1-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45(I am the resurrection and the life.)
This week we are presented a vision of a spiritual body apart from our limited earthly body. In the first reading, God promised us through Ezekiel that God’s Holy Spirit would be placed in us to live a growing new life. Psalm 130 tells us that God is compassion, redemption and forgiveness of our sins. St. Paul tells us that at baptism we receive God’s forgiveness. His Spirit was given to us to lead us through this life to a new life forever in heaven.
The Lazarus gospel story today is an amazing preparation for the redemption Jesus won for us by his death on the cross. Christian faith is different than science, which gives us a lot of theories about existence, life and its end in death. There are some proven things in science like when life begins and ends. Human life begins when one female egg (once a month) unites with one male sperm. Our genetic code, and much of what we shall become in life, are set in that first cell, which can only be human. A species can only produce its own kind.
Our Catholic Faith gives us God’s plan to save us and our relationship with him. It tells us where we came from, what we are to do in this life, why we do it and some of what will happen when we die. Life does not end with death and burial. It moves, as it were, from one room to another better life if we have followed Jesus.
Lazarus and resurrection
We hear very little about death until we are confronted with it. In the gospel story today, Lazarus died and was in the tomb four days before Jesus went to him. To show us who Jesus is and what he is about, Jesus called his friend, Lazarus, back to life from the tomb. Most people were shocked and amazed except the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. For them, that was the “last straw,” compelling them to plan the death of Jesus. The Lazarus event happened about a week before Jesus was put to death. Lazarus had to die again. Some revelation tells us that several years later he was killed while preaching to fisherman at a French port.
Our faith in resurrection does not mean coming back to our earthly body on earth like Lazarus. It means that after our earthly life, our soul (life principle) will have a spiritual form not limited by our human body. Shortly after the separation of body and soul, only a few minutes, we will leave our place of death and meet Jesus Christ in his glorious resurrected form. Those who have had near-death experiences tell us that there is so much love that flows from Jesus that there are no earthly words to describe it. They were sent back to tell us. Most of us have not heard sermons about heaven and its glories.
As a traveling Franciscan priest for a little over forty-five years, I have had many experiences in many places. I have met some people who have had near-death experiences. What I learned the most from was some books by Dr. Raymond Moody, Jr. He has written many books in the last 50 years about the experiences of those who have come back. His first book opening up “life after death” was back around 1975 with “Life After Life” and then “Reflections on Life After Life.” You can see many of his books on the Internet.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote on death and dying. She listed five stages the dying person goes through before death. She also spoke about what the family or friends go through before, and the grieving stages after. All of us, as we get older, will encounter the death of parents, relatives and friends. The relatives may be given grief information to help them with the passing of a loved one, from the hospital, funeral home or in our parishes.
One book I found while working in a Dallas, Texas, parish is: “The New Day Journal” by Sr. Mauryeen O’Brien, OP. It is published by ACTA Publications, 4848 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640, (800) 397-2282, ISBN: 0-87946-130-6. “The New Day Journal” offers a structured approach to facing the death of a loved one. It is based on the belief that writing and sharing one’s thoughts, feelings and experiences is one of the most helpful ways to move beyond pain and loss. This book gives clear, easy-to-follow sectional guides to: 1) accept the reality of the loss, 2) experience the pain of grief, 3) adjust to life without the deceased and 4) to move on with their lives. Every parish has members who have or are going through this experience. This program is very helpful and perhaps you can be your parish instrument to bring hope, healing and new life to others.
Part of Evangelization is to help bring hope and God’s love to others in varied ways. Our most effective and important ways to pray for others are: 1) frequent daily Masses, 2) allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through you, Romans 8:26, 3) praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and 4) the rosary.
Remember to pray for our new administration, our country, the end of abortion, protection for all those who protect us each day, and the conversion of the terrorists throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. Jesus, make us instruments of your peace etc.
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2017 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)