Monday, March 26, 2012


By Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral 3/25/12

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Hebrews 5:7-9 John 12: 20-33

*- An Old testament reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah
describing the new covenant
that God would make with the Israelite nation.
- Simply three verses from the letter to the Hebrews
about Jesus praying to the Father
and about how his prayers were heard.
- A gospel reading in which some Greeks want to meet up with Jesus
and Jesus decides instead to set about telling his disciples about
what would be happening to him in the near future.

Three readings; we will look at them in reverse order:


Today’s reading from the 12th Chapter of the Gospel
according to St. John serves to set the scene
for Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
In Chapter 11 Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead
and the Pharisees became very concerned.
Their plot against Jesus began to materialize,
because Jesus has been working all of these signs
and gathering a good number of followers.
Something had to be done.

In Chapter 12, in today’s Gospel reading,
Jesus explains that his hour is about to come.
The section just before today’s reading
describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Apparently the commotion caused by Jesus’ entry was so great
that it drew the attention of some “Greeks”, some Gentiles.
They wanted to “see” Jesus, probably see some of the signs
and miracles that they had heard about.
They had asked Philip for information on Jesus’ whereabouts,
so Philip and Andrew went to Jesus.
There is no indication whether the Greeks ever “saw” Jesus.
Jesus took this occasion to tell Philip and Andrew the following:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

That some non-Jews might wanted to “see” Jesus and his signs
was not nearly as important to Him
as having His own disciples
“see” the deeper inner meaning of the Son of Man’s
presence here on earth.
It was more important that their faith in Him be strengthened,
because Jesus knew what was coming.
The Pharisees were becoming more militant.

We have encountered the connection between “seeing” and “faith”
at other places in scripture.
In John’s Gospel from Year A for the fourth Sunday in Lent,
we hear the story of the man born blind,
whose faith was increased when his blindness was cured.
He saw and he believed.
Jesus wanted his disciples to “see” or better understand
what was going to happen to him so that their faith in him
would not be shaken by the events of his passion and death,
but rather strengthened by what would happen.
He was telling them, in a short parable,
that He had to die, like the grain of wheat dies,
and then rise like the plant rises to
produce the fruit of our salvation.
He told them that they, as his followers, had to do the same.
Hold on to your life in this world, and you will lose eternal life.
Give up your worldly life, and gain eternal life.
Your hour will come also.
He told them that to be one of His followers, if they were with Him,
this is what they must do.
And those who followed Him will be honored by the Father
with eternal life.
He had come to this hour, this point in his life, for our salvation
and this is what he now had to do.
What a glorious God we have
who would sacrifice his only begotten Son for us.


In the second reading, we heard that Jesus
“offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death
and he was heard because of his reverence.”
He was heard?
He asked that the bitter cup be taken from him,
that he not have to suffer and die and he was heard?
Wait a minute. He asked that the bitter cup be taken from him,
that he not be subjected to the terrible suffering
and slow agonizing death and God heard his prayers?
Doesn’t sound like that’s the way things turned out.

Remember he also prayed that “not my will but thy will be done.”
He was praying that the bitter cup of weakness,
the weakness that he was feeling
would be replaced with the strength to be obedient,
to say “Yes” to the Father’s will.
And through his suffering in the garden,
through his prayer to and reverence for the Father,
he became obedient to the Father.
It is not the physical suffering and death of Jesus
that leads to our salvation.
It is Jesus’ free-will obedience to the Father’s plan
that is our salvation.


I have brought you through two readings,
told you about Jesus and what he was about to go through,
and how he prayed that it would not happen,
but what does all of this mean for us?

Does it mean that we will all have to suffer?
Most of us know that we too must suffer.
Most of us have felt the suffering in some way.
All of the suffering from terminal cancer
to adolescent acne
should become our sharing in the suffering of Christ.
This is fearfully and wonderfully true,
but to join our suffering to that of Christ,
our suffering must be Christ-like, linked to obedience.
Our Salvation is not just about Jesus’ obedience,
It’s also about our obedience.
Obedience is the key.
When God calls, we must answer “Yes,” freely.
In the old testament covenant,
God spoke to the leaders of the Israelite nation,
and they passed the words and laws down to the people
for them to obey.
In today’s Old testament reading Jeremiah was telling the Israelites
that there would be a new covenant,
not the law handed down to the leaders, then to all,
but a law that would enter their hearts.
“I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.”
Jesus is that New Covenant.
He came to earth to take our nature, he came within us
to show us the way back to the father.
The New Covenant is not a set of written laws
that we must memorize or continually be reminded of
by our leaders, so that we can do God’s will.
The New Covenant is a person, Jesus, a perfect model, one of us,
to show us what to do,
to help us to understand what to do,
to write on our hearts what we are to do when God calls.

I cannot trace out what your path of obedience will be:
what God will ask of you and how he will ask it.
But I dare to make two predictions with confidence:
“FIRST, you will hear God speaking to you,
and you will answer “Yes”
in the measure that your covenant,
your commitment to Christ,
to his Church,
to your brothers and sisters,
is interiorized, is written on your heart.
God never stops speaking,
but the cold mind, the locked heart,
those for whom Jesus is just a Sunday phenomenon,
will not hear his voice.
The SECOND prediction is a warning.
The more deeply the covenant is etched on your heart,
the more likely you will learn obedience as Jesus did:
through suffering.
May we learn to pray as Jesus did,
not for things to be changed to conform God’s plan to our will,
but for a warming of our minds
and an unlocking of our hearts,
for the will to make Jesus #1 on our list every day,
for the strength to be obedient to God’s plan,
so as to be able to say “Yes” to God’s will
and to endure any suffering.
Holy Week is fast approaching.
May we become more involved each day this week
and every day for the rest of our lives
in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.

*Parts based on “Through What He Suffered He Learned to Obey” from “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders” by Walter J. Burghardt, S.J. Paulist Press 1984 NJ pp 39-44

HOMILY 5th Sunday of Lent - Year A

Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral - March 25, 2012

A missionary came to serve a tribe in the jungles of South America.
He noticed that many of the tribe were ill.
He knew that there was a clinic across the river.
Simple, take the sick to the clinic.
But he found that there was a great resistance to going to the clinic.

At first he thought they were afraid of the clinic,
but he found out that the real problem was the river.
They believed that it harbored evil spirits,
that would attack them as they crossed.
How would he convince the natives that the river was safe?
First, he brought them to the river’s edge,
and tried to explain that there was no danger,
no evil spirits.
A few took his word, but most would have none of his explanation.
He then bent over and splashed his hand in the water.
Certainly that would convince them; a few more went along.
Water on their hands, no problem.
Being in the water or being in a situation
that might put them into the water like from a boat,
that was a major problem.

The missionary waded into the water up to his waist;
surely the natives would see that he was safe
even though they could not see him below the waist.
But most remained afraid of the deeper water.

So the missionary took his last shot, he dove into the river
and swam underwater
and emerged alive and well on the other side.
The natives could see him.
They could see that he had survived the underwater trip.
Many more were now convinced
that the river was not filled with evil spirits
and many were finally encouraged to risk the crossing.


The missionary used a series of increasingly more pronounced signs.
He tried explanation, then touching the water,
then standing in the water
and finally submerging himself to get the point across.

The readings at Mass are on a three-year cycle: Year A, B and C.
We have been in the midst of Year B
since the first Sunday in Advent,
but today you heard the readings from year A.
That is because we use the readings from Year A,
when we celebrate the scrutinies with the elect.
Today we are celebrating the third scrutiny with the elect.
The A Gospel readings for the three scrutinies,
include the following stories:
First Scrutiny – Jesus meets the woman at the well.
Second Scrutiny – Jesus cured the man born blind.
Third Scrutiny – Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
In this series of Gospel readings,
Jesus can be seen as doing much the same as the missionary,
using a series of signs to get across a message,
signs that become ever-more pronounced.

First there was the minor miracle of reading the mind
of the woman at the well.
You might recall that she told Jesus that she had no husband,
And Jesus told her that in fact she had had five husbands
and the man she was living with now was indeed
not her husband.
Last week
we heard about the more miraculous cure of the blind man,
and today the ultimate miracle
of raising Lazarus from the dead.

In each instance the faith of the person or persons
interacting with Jesus was affected.
The woman at the well accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
Her faith was so strengthened,
that she went back to her village
to spread the Good News about the man,
Jesus, the Messiah, she had met at the well.
When Jesus identified himself to the man born blind,
the man said, "I do believe, Lord."
His faith was strengthened.
In Today’s Gospel, there was little doubt that Lazarus was dead.
He had been dead for four days.
And again faith was tested.
The disciples wondered how Jesus,
the one who claimed to be the Messiah
could lead them back to Judea,
a place where there could be trouble?
Martha and Mary did not understand how Jesus,
the Christ, could let their brother die
and be buried for four days,
when He could have saved Lazarus had he been there.
The Jews might have wondered:
Could this really be the Son of Man, the Messiah,
who is perturbed by a few non-believers
and who breaks down and cries at the loss of a friend?
Would the Son of God endure the stench of the tomb
of a person dead for four days?
We have had three consecutive weeks of signs,
of testing, probing, examining,
three weeks of scrutiny in order to test faith
and to strengthen faith.

On each of these three consecutive Sundays
we have celebrated this process of scrutiny
with the elect of our parish.
Yes, I say "WE celebrate",
because by this process our faith in Jesus Christ
is also being examined and strengthened.


Today our scrutiny might take the following form:
Are we ready to follow Jesus
to those spots which are comfortable?
Jesus befriended a woman
who could have been stoned to death for her immoral behavior.
He befriended a blind man who was considered to be a sinner.
And today, Jesus took on death.
We won't be "stoned" to death or labeled a sinner
because we may hold views counter to the accepted culture,
but we might be insulted, ignored or shunned,
because we hold to Christian principles.
It could mean speaking out against violence and war
or working to abolish abortion.
In Lent we must be about the business of finding out
just where we are spiritually.

Since this is the time for scrutiny,
each of us must check up on where we stand
in our relationship with the Lord.
Following Jesus might mean
volunteering at an agency that aids the poor and homeless,
or reaching out to an alienated family member,
or digging deeper to support the Diocesan \ Parish Annual Appeal,
or working to remove from our life that one sin that plagues us.

God has endured the stench of our sin.
He is calling us, like Lazarus, from the tomb of our death in sin.
Let us roll away the stones that trap us.
Where do we stand?
How are we responding to the call to continuing conversion?


The missionary went to the point of standing in the river;
with the raising of Lazarus, Jesus did the equivalent.
The missionary found it necessary go further,
to endure the depths of the river.
In today's gospel, Jesus is preparing to take the next step,
to endure the depths of our death.

At the Easter Vigil,
the elect will enter into the water of Baptism
and come out on the other side,
having been freed of the grip of evil.
Tonya, our elect, is in the final stages of preparing for this next step.
We must all be preparing to do the same,
to take the final step - to rise
like Lazarus and with Jesus from the tomb.