The older I get the more overwhelming I find the mystery of our religion. It just keeps getting deeper and deeper. That is why I was grateful for today’s responsorial psalm, in which the Church sums up in a few words a great mystery. And what is this mystery? “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” It is a great and consoling mystery, but also a disconcerting one at times. This is what Martha and Mary experienced when the Lord raised their brother from the dead.
They had waited in vain for Jesus to come, and now their only hope was that he would show mercy and bring some kind of resolution or at least give some explanation for the death of Lazarus. They needed to make sense of it all. They cried out to him like the psalmist from the depths of their hearts, each in her own way: Martha by a direct appeal, face-to-face, with a boldness born of friendship; Mary by falling at his feet in a single act of grief and worship. It had all been too much.
Now it seemed the only thing left was to trust. In fact, this seems to be what the Lord desires most – trust in him and trust in his word. More than the watchers count on daybreak, the sisters had to trust in the Lord to act and then cooperate in whatever way they could. This was not an easy task. When the moment came for the full revelation of God’s mercy and redemption, even Martha pulled back, “Lord, by now there will be a stench…” And Mary, overwhelmed by her tears, let her inner vision be temporarily blurred. Even these closest friends of Jesus, who knew him so well, had difficulty bearing the full weight of the mystery.
So, one might ask: is there anyone who can really grasp the height and depth of this mystery? There is one, given to us by Jesus – the Church, our mother. In today’s responsorial psalm we hear her cry out for all her weak children, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my prayer." Knowing that she is his beloved, she asks him to be attentive to the voice of her pleading. She is his “dove in the clefts of the rock” whose “voice is sweet” and whose song is lovely. In her psalms of lament and thanksgiving and pilgrimage, she gives voice to the whole gamut of the human experience. By turns mourning for the sins of her children, and then cooing to honor the mercy of her spouse: “For with you is found forgiveness; therefore, we revere you.” He will redeem the Israel from all its distress.
Indeed, who else can redeem her children from their bondage except the one who has “come down to his garden, to the beds of spices” In today’s gospel Jesus takes the question asked in the first garden, “Where are you?” and transforms it to “Where have you laid him?” And his Church responds, “My Lord, come and see.” That is the whole reason for his coming down to his garden - to open our graves and have us rise from them. His prayer to his Father blends with the song of his bride, and together they untie the bands that cover our limbs and faces.
The mystery of mercy and redemption is fully present in this Eucharist. It comes to bear us up when life is overwhelming – whether from the threat of the coronavirus or simply from the abyss of the mystery of our religion. Our task is to wait and to trust and to join in the song of his Church, a song that will resound throughout the holy days ahead. Let us ask Our Lady, the perfect image and type of the Church, to bring us deeper into the Lord’s mystery of mercy and redemption.
The Raising of Lazarus by John August Swanson; an original serigraph of this image is displayed in the Abbey church for this Fifth Sunday of Lent. Excerpts from today's homily by Father Vincent.