Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A-2011

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
For with the Lord is kindness (Ps. 130:7—NAB)

Jesus is the living water that washes our guilt and quenches our thirst. He is the light of the world that takes away our blindness and our darkness. But above all he is the resurrection (“whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live”) and the life (“everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”). And he loves us so much he cannot but have compassion on us and seek in earnest that we partake of him.

Jesus was so moved with compassion when he saw his friend Mary and the others cry that he became perturbed and deeply troubled. He cried in such a way that those who were around noted how much he loved Lazarus. Because of his great love for his friend, Jesus was angry at death and did not allow it to wreak havoc, such well-known havoc, for example, as the separation of spouses or of friends, according to St. Braulio of Zaragoza [1].

Like Jesus, a Christian is expected to be compassionate. A follower of Jesus is supposed to love as Jesus did and do the best he could for the beloved. That was why St. Vincent de Paul showed compassion towards the poor and clearly laid down before his confreres this conviction: “What! To be a Christian and not weep with an afflicted brother he sees or not feel sick with one who is sick! This is to be without charity; it is to be a caricature of a Christian; it is to lack humanity; it is to be worse than the beasts” [2]. And the saint’s compassion led him not only to preach the Gospel to the poor, but also to care for them, to remedy both their spiritual and material needs, to assist them and see to it that they are assisted in every way by others as well [3].

And those who love and have compassion show themselves lively and alive, of course, unlike a rock that feels no pain—according to Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 song, “I Am A Rock”—or an island that never cries. And even more importantly, persons who put on Jesus’ love and compassion, harboring no treacherous rancor or hatred, are washed clean (Jn. 13:10-11). They are no longer in the darkness nor do they walk in it, and they have life as they remain in Jesus (1 Jn. 2:9; 1 Jn. 3:15). That is to say, even now Jesus is making such persons share in his resurrection and his life. With a love that is infinitely inventive, Jesus nurtures them with his own body and his own blood, accompanying them always, for Jesus is there with them “really and substantially as he is in heaven” [4].

And never has there been any lack of opportunities for us to love those who suffer and to show them compassion. Many years ago, I knew of a mother who, if she could, would have raised to life a 22-year old daughter, dead due to an infection within 18 days of having given birth to a healthy boy, yes, but who would grow up not knowing the tender love of a mother. In Mexico and Spain many years ago, and in several other Latin American countries not too long ago, mothers, had they the power to do so, would have raised to life their sons and daughters, made martyrs either by leftists with hatred for the faith or by rightists who mistook for communists those who were giving bread to the hungry and who dared ask why the poor were poor. And nowadays, just as—if not worse than—in St. Vincent’s days, the poor are increasing everyday, but are they are concern, our burden and our pain? Hopefully, rather than be so consumed by seeking our identity [5] through the religious habit or church vestment we wear, or the especial ornaments and decorations we put up, or the unique rituals we perform, or the titles of father, teacher, monsignor, doctor, all of which tend to puff up, we will prefer to be known as disciples of Jesus by our loving one another as Jesus has loved us—“as Jesus” is what makes new, according to St. Augustine, the commandment given by Jesus (Jn. 13:34 [6])—and as the indwelling Spirit prompts us, yes, with a love that is ready and willing to die, to give the body up and to shed the blood, in order to give life and build up (cf. Mt. 23:5, 8-10; 1 Cor. 8:1).


NOTES:

[1] Cf. the alternative non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings for the Office for the Dead, Liturgy of the Hours.
[2] P. Coste XII, 271.
[3] Ibid., 87.
[4] Ibid., XI, 146.
[5] Andrew Hamilton, “Does Catholic identity matter?” at http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=25637 (accessed April 6, 2011).
[6] Cf. the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter, Liturgy of the Hours.