Hope for the Living Dead

Hope for the Living Dead

March 18, 2018 | N W | Comfort, Eternal Life, Father Salvador, Healing, Hope, Lent, Resurrection

Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2018 – Year A Readings
Readings: Ez 37:12-14 / Ps 130 / Rom 8:8-11 / Jn 11:1-45
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor

The Spring 2018 issue of Discover Smith Mountain Lake magazine has an article titled “Taking the Sting Out of Death.” (The article is posted on the parish bulletin board, and the magazine is available for free at the Bedford Welcome Center.) It is good reading during the season of Lent.

The writer, Kate Hofstetter, interviewed two men of God, as she put it, about their experience ministering to the dying. Both of these clergy said that a strong faith in God and the spiritual support of their loved ones takes the sting out of death for those who are about to be born into life eternal.

This Sunday, which is the last Sunday of the scrutinies for the catechumens, our Holy Mother Church has given us liturgical readings that tell us that the Lord God is the only one who has power over death and who can give our life back.

In the first reading, which is taken from chapter thirty-seven of the book of the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord God promised: “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them.” This promise is fulfilled in the gospel, which we have just heard, which is taken from chapter eleven of the gospel of John.

The Lord Jesus went to the tomb where his friend Lazarus had been buried for four days. He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, and Jesus said to those present, “Untie him, and let him go.”

Lazarus no doubt lived happily ever after. But the reason we have this reading during the last Sunday of the scrutinies is not just to show that Jesus can perform miracles and can even raise the dead back to life, but to show who Jesus really is.

In His prayer before He raised Lazarus from the dead, He said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me, and I know that you always hear me. But because of the crowd here, I have said this, that they may believe.”

This is the reason why we are all here: because we believe that Jesus is our Savior and our God. He is the Resurrection and the Life, and whoever believes in Him will never die.

The physical body of Lazarus eventually did die, but his soul lives forever. This is what we all hope for. In this life, Jesus said, we will have troubles. But then He added, “But be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world.” The unconditional love of the Lord Jesus will see us through the trials and tribulations of this life, and will make us rise again from any kind of spiritual death.

Sister Pauline Quinn, the founder of the Prison Pet Partnership Program, has suffered such spiritual death in this troubled universe. She grew up in the glamorous world of Hollywood, but when her father disappeared, the family disintegrated. Then began a long history of abuse. As a teenager, she constantly ran away, only to be captured and sent to juvenile detention.

She ended up in the notorious Camarillo State Mental Hospital in California, which is considered a warehouse for discarded human beings. She was chained to a bed and abused by the very people who were supposed to help her.

As she began to die spiritually, she kept cutting herself, for that was the only way she knew to express her pain and despair. She was spiritually a walking dead, until she met a Catholic nun, Sister Josepha, who gained her trust. Then she was given a dog. That was the turning point of her life. For the first time, she felt loved.

To make her long story short, she not only eventually embraced the Lord Jesus through her conversion to the Catholic Christian faith, but she became a Dominican, taking the name Sister Pauline of the Cross. For many years now, the Prison Pet Partnership Program, which was the first of its kind in this country when Sister Pauline started it, has helped hundreds of inmates, not only in the United States, but in other parts of the world. With her dog at her side, she met Pope Francis, to tell him about her ministry.

Sister Pauline’s life tells us that the Lord Jesus is the hope of the spiritually dead in this world. He can help us put our painful past behind us and move on, not only with our physical lives, which we can live in all its fullness in God’s presence, but toward the life that will never end.