Reflection for Sunday, March 29, 2020: 5th week in Lent.

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Lierk, Kyle
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|The other morning I put on my jacket to take my dog out for his morning walk. This ritual has been a regular, saving grace in these early days of "social distancing" and isolation while we continue working together as a global family to curb the spread of COVID-19. In Omaha that day there was mist gently falling out of a gray-washed sky. The ground was freshly wet from a heavy overnight rain. Looking down at my boots as I pondered the heavy cloud this pandemic has brought upon our world, creation gave me a gift of hope...earthworms. Spread across the glistening street were clews of worms slowly slithering along, brought up from their dark, subterranean winter resting places.|The recurring narrative of our time has been one of death. The headlines stream daily updates of statistics on infection counts and numbers of those who have succumbed to the illness. Tragic realities have been reported from every corner of the planet. These certainly feel like Lenten days. If I do not stay close to Jesus, I can easily find myself getting overwhelmed by it all and burying myself in a tomb of fear.|In today's Gospel, the tomb is right where God meets us. Like many of our brothers and sisters across the world right now, Jesus received news that his good friend Lazarus had fallen ill. By the time he is able to make the journey to pay him a visit he has died. Upon arriving in Bethany, Jesus is met separately by Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha who both have the same words for him: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." In our current reality of this pandemic, we might be saying the same thing to God. Our sadness and our anger is real. The Psalmist puts words to how we might be feeling: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord." (PS 130:1)|God's response to our cry is provided today by the prophet Ezekial: "I will open your graves and have you rise from them." (EZ 37:12) Jesus steps forward to the tomb of his friend with three powerful commands:|"Take away the stone."|"Lazarus, come out!"|"Untie him and let him go."|Jesus calls us out of dark, death-dealing tombs and into the healing, holy light of his love. It might be hard to hear the voice of Jesus in these fearful times over the voices of dark spirits that tempt us to panic and isolate and keep the tomb's stone right where it is. In a recent interview, Pope Francis provides a simple way to step into the light:|"We must rediscover the concreteness of little things, small gestures of attention we can offer those close to us, our family, our friends...We must understand that in small things lies our treasure. These gestures of tenderness, affection, compassion are minimal and tend to be lost in the anonymity of everyday life, but they are nonetheless decisive, important."|Like the earthworms stretching their bodies into springtime, my hope is that we can come up and out of these dark, cold, hard graves of fear through "small gestures" that keep us connected to each other amidst our social distance. As others have offered to date, the words of CS Lewis written in his essay "On Living in an Atomic Age" in 1948 seem to apply to us today in 2020:|"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."|Let what dominates our minds and hearts be the firm commitment God has made to us: "I will put my spirit in you that you may live...I have promised, and I will do it." (EZ 37:14)
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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