Sunday Reflection_5th Sunday of Lent 2020
I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
In John’s Gospel, this is what Jesus said to Martha as she was grieving the death of her brother Lazarus. It is a very brief statement of the message that Jesus came to tell all of us – that God loves us unconditionally – and that we are destined to live forever in happiness with God. I am sure that I must have been told this by the Sisters and priests who educated me. And I would have said is asked: that is what I believe. But I never really gave any serious thought about it until my first year as a priest when I was studying French in the University in Grenoble, France.
In my class were two girls from Sweden who spoke flawless English. So when we had a break from class the three of us would go off to a patisserie to have coffee and cake. We became very good friends. They were Jewish, but they did not know much about their faith, so I found myself instructing them on some of the history and basics of their religion. At one point I even took them to the local synagogue and introduced them to the rabbi (my French at that point was a bit more advanced than was theirs). One morning the one girl, Lillian, asked what is different about the Christian religion? I told her that because Jesus was raised from the dead we believe that death is not the end for us; our body dies but we go on living. “Ýou see, Lillian, I Larry had a start in life, but I believe that I Larry will never stop living.” She asked: “Can I as a Jew believe that?” I told her that there were Jews, even at the time of Jesus, who believed they would have eternal life. She thought for a moment and then said, “No, that is too beautiful to be true.” When I got back to the presbytery that afternoon I said to the Parish Priest: “Robert, do you realize that I Larry am going to live forever?” At first he looked at me as if I had had a nervous break-down and then he laughed and said: “Yes. That is what we believe.” Till then I had never put my own name to that belief but now I can repeat it with the same excitement I had in my voice when I first said it to Robert! I Larry am going to live forever!
In the 1980s I started to use the computer instead of the typewriter and I found in those early years people would send me as attachments special prayers, or funny clerical jokes, or words of spiritual encouragement. I found that I was spending so much time reading the attachments that I didn’t always have time to prepare my lectures. So I sent an email to all my friends and told them I would no longer have time to read all their attachments and so I would simply delete them. A few years later I received an email from a close friend with an attachment. In the subject box he simply said: Larry, read this before you delete it. So I did, and I have repeated the story written there many times over.
A woman was dying and she wanted to talk with the priest about her funeral. She said that she wanted the priest to put a fork in her hand in the casket. He was surprised and asked: “Why the fork?” She said that when she was growing up and they had had a delicious meal, if the women going around to collect the dirty plates said: “But hold on to your fork!” we knew that the best was yet come. So when people came to view the body and would ask the priest: “Why the fork?” he would tell them that it was because she believed the best was yet to come!
So we too can look forward not only to gojng on living but also to the truth that “the best is yet to come”.