The Sickness of Sin

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Ez 37:12-14 - Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 - Rom 8:8-11 - Jn 11:1-45

How did you get injured?
When you wear a neck brace everyone wants to know what happened. Did you have a car accident? Hurt yourself Skiing? Mountain Climbing? Fall on the Ice?

I did it to my self – what do you think about that?
How would you respond if I said I got this injury on purpose? What? I am Aghast? Why would you injure yourself? You don’t seem like the kind of guy who would attempt suicide, or self-mutilation…

What if it was a horrible disease?
What if I didn’t have a neck injury, but rather I purposefully infected myself with some horrible disease like the plague, leprosy, hepatitis, AIDS, Ebola or something worse?

What would you do?

Would you let me come and stay in your house – infected with a terrible disease?
Would you be my friend?
Would you tell my family? Boss? The Doctor? Social Services?

We are crazy to hurt ourselves
You would be right to think that I was crazy to hurt myself, You would be right to think that I am not sane to infect myself with a horrible disease. There is something horribly wrong when people do that – and they need help.

I am Not Sick – I used this brace to illustrate the sickness of my soul
Providentially for us, I am not physically sick or injured. I do not have some really bad contagious disease. I wore this neck brace to illustrate a disease that affects all of us, it is a sickness of the soul – it is sin

Sin is killing me
Sin afflicts me, The sin that I commit tears me down, it destroys my soul, it is my sin that is killing me and it is often hard to visualize. So I wear a neck brace to remind myself that Sin is killing me, and I need to change so that I am no longer crippled.

A Man was Ill
The Gospel today begins with the statement – A Man was ill. Which man? You and me. Like Lazarus we are ill because of the Sin that we have not repented from. Sin is a sickness of the Soul.

We need sin like lung cancer needs cigarettes
Like Lazarus, we are dying – we often don’t see it because we often don’t recognize the true state of our soul. We are like an emphysema patient dieing from lung cancer, and yet we keep on smoking cigarettes.

Mary prays for Lazarus
Fortunately we are like Lazarus, we have a family that does care for us and wants to do something about our sickness. We need to pray for one another, and to counsel one another to get better. Lazarus had his sisters who prayed for him – the Gospel says that they “sent word to Jesus that the one who he loved was ill…”

Lent is Hospital for the Soul
Lent is the time when the Church invites us to go to the Hospital for our Soul – a place of healing and rest, so that we can be healed and so enjoy the celebration of Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Seven Deadly Sins
The Monks of the Early Church used to evaluate their relationship with God in terms of the “Seven Deadly Sins” – Seven ways that their relationship with God was sick, and dying. They had specific ways of addressing the illnesses of the soul, and this lent we have an opportunity to dip into some of their wisdom, to get some help, so that we leave this lent spiritually more healthy than we entered into it.

What are the Seven Deadly Sins?
Lust – Pornography is polluted love – Antidote is Chastity
Lust – Pornography destroys my ability to love purely, it is polluted love. Lust replaces true love – seeking the good of the other which heals, cleanses, strengthens and builds up with selfish love, which takes, destroys and spreads its hatred because it ends up empty. Lust is a sickness of the Body.

Gluttony fills a hurt with stuff. – Antidote is fasting
Gluttony – Gluttony attempts to fill a hurt within myself with food, or busyness or distraction. It is not always a physical ailment, but rather a psychological / condition where we have been hurt and we protect ourselves by indulging our body. Sometimes we can be a glutton with food, or with busyness, or with drugs or alcohol. Gluttony is a sickness of the Body.

Greed hoards gifts meant for others – Antidote is generosity
Greed – Greed means that I hoard the gifts that God has given me and use them for my selfish gain, rather than steward them and use them according to God’s plan. Don’t misunderstand me – I am not suggesting that we must give away what we own, but rather that we need to use what God has given us in cooperation with His plan. Greed kills within me any ability to be thankful, or grateful to God for the gifts that he has given me.

Laziness leads to couch-potato-dom – we are meant for motion – Engage the world with charity
Sloth – Laziness. A kind of depression, where I give up, and stop caring for my self. Sloth is taking a laize-faire attitude towards the spiritual or practical situation of my life, and rather than engaging the world, I just try to hide in the corner and ignore it. Look at the Human Body – it is created for action and motion, not for couch-potato-dom.

Anger comes from unforgiveness – Antidote is Forgiveness
Anger / Wrath – The root of anger is unforgiveness. If I am suffering from this affliction of the soul, it is time to ask – Is there someone I need to forgive. The struggle with Injustice makes this especially difficult – and so we need to forgive, to turn justice over to God who can judge justly.

Envy is distrust of God’s generosity – Antidote is focus on your mission (Vocation) Envy – Distrust of God. Envy is really an expression that I am mad at God for the gifts that He gave another rather than myself. It is always a case of paying more attention to the other guy’s toys rather than using the gifts that He gave me. It eats away at my soul because I no longer focus on the vocation that God called me to, but rather I focus on what I don’t have…

Pride is blindness to the Truth – Antidote is Humility
Pride – Blindness – I do not see myself for who I am but rather I see things out of proportion. Either I need to get some spiritual glasses or have Jesus wash out my eyes with clay and spittle (Remember last weeks Gospel).

What is the medicine for the Deadly Sins?
The reason why Lent is like a hospital for the Soul is that we are encouraged to spend our time during Lent with Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. These are the three great cures for the Soul.

Prayer – time with the Sanctifier
Prayer increases the time I spend with God – If I want to live a holy life, If I want to live a life filled with the presence of God – who leads me to the fullness of Joy, then I need to spend time with the one who sanctifies. This means I need to work on my relationship with God.

Fasting curbs Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Anger
Fasting – Fasting curbs the appetites of my body. If I struggle with Lust, with Gluttony, Anger or Sloth, Fasting puts me to work. It attacks the disease at its core, by reminding the flesh that it is the Spirit that leads me to eternal life.

Almsgiving curbs Envy, Pride and Greed
Almsgiving – Just as deadly as the sins of the Body, are sins of the heart. Giving money to those in need attack my pride – because I learn to see myself as God sees me – a beautiful creation of His love, created to steward the gifts that he has given me. It also attacks my greed, and my envy by focusing myself on the mission that God has called me to, in my own particular situation.

Lazarus is sick, Mary helps with prayer
In the Gospel today we see that Lazarus, like us is sick with Sin. His sister Mary acts to help him by sending word to Jesus – Lord, the one whom you love is Ill. That is us. When we see a brother or Sister struggling with Sin, then we need to pray for them, not gloat about how much better we are then they.

See the Love of Jesus – He weeps for the sick
Also notice that the one who is sick is the one who Jesus Loves, and He weeps for us, and is perturbed. See how much that Christ loves you, even though your sickness is leading you to Death.

Jesus comes to us according to His plan.
When Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick he doesn’t come immediately, but rather he comes according to Gods plan, at his time, so that God’s grace can be maximized. The lesson we take from this part of the Gospel today is that of patience, and perseverance. We need to persevere in our Lenten disciplines, trusting that God hears our prayers and will answer them in his own time, for our better good.

It’s not too late to start (or restart) lent – Jesus wants to awaken us from the death of Sin!
Jesus than says to his disciples that “He is going to awaken Lazarus” – To bring him back from the dead. This is what Christ is saying to us today. “I don’t care where you are with your Lenten resolutions, if you have been faithful throughout lent, or if you quit 3 hours into Ash Wednesday – I want to bring you back from the dead!” It is never too late to begin to repent, to change your mind, to ask Christ to reveal to you the depths of your Sin and so lead you into new life! It might be the 5th week of Lent, we might be at the threshold of Holy Week – there is still time to get to the banquet full of Joy!

Jesus is calling you from your tomb of sin!

Today Jesus is coming to the tombs that we have dug for ourselves with our sin.

He is standing outside and calling us away from the sickness that afflicts us. Jesus is calling us to witness to the Gospel this week by accepting his healing love, by hearing his tears over our illness and death and changing our minds about our sin.

When we allow Christ – who is The Way, The Truth and The Life into our lives, through conversion, we witness the power of his Cross and Resurrection to our families and friends, so that they too can come to believe and be healed!