This is the question Jesus poses directly to Martha in today’s gospel, after explaining to her: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” In the face of the death of her brother, Lazarus, four days before, Martha does not hesitate to reply: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” In last Sunday’s gospel the man born blind whom Jesus had healed is asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35) After he asks who he is and Jesus replies that he is the Son of Man, the man says: “I do believe, Lord.” (John 9:38) These professions of faith model for the catechumens to be baptized at Easter and for us who will renew our baptismal promises the answers to the questions which will be posed to us: “Do you believe in God, the Father almighty…? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit…?” Our response to these questions should be a sincere and enthusiastic, “I do!” Like the townspeople of the woman at the well in the gospel two Sundays ago, we believe not simply on the testimony of others; now this faith is our own, “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” (John 4:42)
Today’s gospel completes the trilogy of gospels intended specifically for the instruction of the catechumens preparing for baptism at Easter. New life is Christ’s promise to those who are bathed in the “living water” (cf. John 4:10) after having been enlightened by faith. Furthermore it fulfills in a way beyond imagining the prophecy first spoken to the Jews in exile in the sixth century before Christ: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” (First Reading) The ability of Jesus to call Lazarus forth from the tomb reveals him to be the Lord of life. Lazarus, however, was called back to earthly life and one day would die again. Nevertheless it invites us to look to Jesus’ own resurrection, through his dialogue with Martha, as the source of hope for our own resurrection to eternal life: “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” (Second Reading)
Throughout the season of Lent the Church exhorts us to “turn away from sin and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) The sacrament of penance is the most powerful means of persevering in this resolve, because its grace is the result of Christ’s obedient sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The Lenten discipline of prayer and penance finds its completion in a good confession and act of contrition. The prayer of absolution frees us from the sinful entanglements into which we fall. It renews in us the cleansing and life-giving waters of baptism we call “sanctifying grace.” The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be traveling to the various parishes for penance services. Ours will be at St. Charles on Monday, April 3, at 7:00 PM. Others will be at Holy Ghost on Sunday, April 2, at 3:00 PM; and at Notre Dame on Tuesday, April 4, at 7:00 PM. You are welcome to go wherever it fits your schedule.
Holy Week begins next weekend with the celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Palms will be blessed and distributed at all Masses next weekend. Weather permitting, the 9:00 Mass will begin outside behind St. Peter’s School and the 10:30 Mass will begin in St. Charles School gym with the blessing of palms and procession to the church. Plan also to participate in the solemn liturgies of the Easter Triduum, which commemorate the events from the Last Supper through the resurrection.
Please remember and try to attend the Stations of the Cross and Benediction at 6:00 PM on Wednesday at both churches. These devotions are great for families and remind us all of the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord, which is the source of all sacramental grace and serves as a fitting preparation for the liturgies of Holy Week.
Pray the Rosary this week for all who are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation this Easter, and for the young people of our parishes preparing for their First Holy Communion or Confirmation. Pray for people in Peru who have experienced devastating floods and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.