HOMILY – 5 LENT [A] 2017        [John 11:1-45]

Come out!  Jesus calls to Lazarus and life returns to claim the dead man from the grave.  Lazarus walks into the light and into the embrace of his family.  Come out!  It’s an ambiguous expression in our present Western society.  Come out for a walk.  Come out with me. Come out where I can see you.  These are common enough.

But “come out” or “coming out” now includes revealing your sexual identity. Those who for a long time, perhaps even a lifetime, have hidden their awareness of being different, are encouraged to “come out” into the full light of society and take ownership of the person they really are – not necessarily the person others thought they were or expected them to be.

The result is that many men and women are living more comfortably with themselves, and feeling less alien in day-to-day interaction with people generally.  Now gender equality and pressure to allow same-sex marriage are global issues.  The morality of these developments is exercising the minds of theologians, but the pastoral implications call for an altogether different approach.

Pope Francis is leading the way by pointing out that no one is to be judged for who they are.  He expects his priests to be ministers of compassion and mercy.  And, as a priest, I ask the same of the people I serve.  We are not in the business of condemnation; our role as Christians is to recognise the God-image in each person before we see anything else.

Our 21 century society is experience enormous change and change always brings turmoil and confusion as various factions struggle to find their place in the emerging newness.  The Church is part of society and cannot expect to escape the upheaval.

Those preparing for initiation as Catholic Christians need to understand that this is the path we travel: holding fast to the truth of Jesus and trying our best to live by that truth.  Weakness will appear, failure will happen, but the love of God in Jesus will carry us through, provided we keep travelling together, supporting one another by accepting the differences between us; loving, not judging; caring, not avoiding; and listening, that we might hear the pain and distress that affects us all, in order that we might bring that suffering into the light and bless it with life.

Come out! Jesus calls – not only Lazarus, but every person.  Come out and be seen.  Be proud of who you are.  Be present to one another.  Live your dignity with the confidence that you have been called.  So what, if you don’t agree with everyone, their opinions or their lifestyle!  Be assured that everyone has a part to play.

As a Christian you have been embraced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Embrace it is return, with thanksgiving in your heart; and watch the turmoil cease as your heart finds peace.