Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today’s readings

He had worked for the company for twenty-seven years, and the beginning of his association there was great. The job was energizing, he worked with great people, he worked for great people. It was a family business, and they treated the people who worked for them like family. They were paid well, had good benefits, and they all worked hard – it was an ideal situation. But, over the years, the brothers who ran the company retired, and sold the company to another in the same business. They were taken over a few years ago by still another company, and they started to joke that they should replace the sign out front with a dry-erase board so they could change the company name more easily.

So he found his job satisfaction decreasing day by day. The job was more hectic and drained him of his energy every single day. The people he worked with were in the same boat as he was – they were all so stressed that they hardly had time for each other. The great people he worked for were all retired. It wasn’t family any more – it was dog eat dog, profits were most important, and the quality of work and product wasn’t so important as was the next big presentation for the stockholders. Everyone was trying to get ahead, and they were cutting corners to do so.

Eventually he became aware that something was really off. What they were billing their biggest clients for, and what they were providing, were two different things. He’d seen the invoices and the sales orders and they didn’t match. And these were government contracts. He checked and re-checked, and there was no getting around it, the disparity was clear. As time went on, he knew he couldn’t live with what was going on. But if he blew the whistle, who was going to have his back? He had a family and needed the job and its benefits. Who was going to hire him at his age? Even when he found a job, he wouldn’t make what he was getting now. But his faith had informed his conscience and he knew he couldn’t just look the other way.

His hour had come.

Many of us have to face our own “hours.” A teenager says his friends are constantly getting drunk and he does not want to join them. As a result he loses those friends. A parent objects to athletic practices for her children on Sunday morning. As a result, her child does not make the team. Our hour comes whenever our identity is on the line, when we are called on to make sacrifice, when we must make a decision that will cost us. The “hour” often puts our choices at odds with others and we must decide if we will live out and, in a way, die for what we believe.

And so, maybe we can relate a bit to Jesus today. His hour had come, the hour for him to be glorified, sure, but it was also an hour that would lead first to his death. He knew this very well. In John’s Gospel, none of this is a surprise for Jesus – he is not arrested and dragged to his death, there is no Garden of Gethsemane moment where he begs for the cup to be taken from him. Instead, John’s Gospel has Jesus in full control. He knows why he came, he knows that the hour is at hand, and he freely lays down his life for all of us. But, even so, that hour does not come without some pause, even some dread – John’s Jesus is still fully human in that way.

We are in the “homestretch” of Lent right now. As Jesus approaches his defining hour, we are entering into the final full week of Lent, this wonderful season of grace and blessing. Lent itself ends on Holy Thursday just before Evening Prayer or Vespers. So we have about ten and a half days left. And the preparations are in full swing. The maintenance staff has been repairing and refinishing the pews so that the Church will look good for Easter. We’ve been stocking up on the candles and hosts and supplies that we will need for these incredible days. Liturgies are being prepared, readings are being practiced, music is being rehearsed. The Elect have taken part in all the Scrutinies and are eager for the Easter Vigil when they will receive what they have been longing for – new life in Christ.

So I think this is a good time for us to pause and see where we are and where we’ve been. Where has this Lent taken us? Did you participate in Forty Hours, in the Mission; have you come to the Stations of the Cross, did you eat at the Fish Fry? Have you found time for additional prayer in your life? Have you come to daily Mass? Have you fasted from those things which distract you from a full relationship with God? Have you given of your own time, talent and treasure to reach out to those who are not as fortunate as you are? Have you taken the time to confess your sins?

If Lent has not been as stellar as you’d hoped; if you’ve intended to do some things that haven’t actually taken shape, if you’ve been lax in some of your practices, well you have these ten and a half days to make it right. If you’ve failed in your resolutions, they are not dead; now is the time to revive them and make a ten-day effort to let them change your hearts, to let God change your hearts. We even have one final opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance, next Saturday, from 3:30 to 5pm, and all three of us priests will be available: me, Fr. Ted and Fr. Jude.

How wonderful it would be for all of us to enter into Holy Week with minds and hearts renewed, open to the grace of the Paschal Triduum. How wonderful it would be to pack this church on all three days of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil; all of us open to the celebration of our salvation through the cross and resurrection of Christ. The hour is nearly here, and our entering in to this hour enables us to face those other “hours” of our lives with more grace. So that when our identity is tested and our faith is on the line, we will know that we can take up the cross, confident in the resurrection.

Jesus tells us today, “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” We confidently approach this hour of judgment with the prayer of the Psalmist today, “Create a clean heart in me, O God.”

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