From the Pastor's Desk  
 
Only in Christ can we rise
to the fullness of life
 
This is a most unusual Lent, of course, especially liturgically. But as the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, as throughout Lent, remind us, God is always with us, most especially in difficult or trying times. Though we cannot gather together for mass, I am confident that God will not cease to care for us and bless us. Though we cannot receive the Lord in Holy Communion, surely Christ will fill us with his presence, especially if we continue to keep holy the Lord’s day. I urge all of you, as did Archbishop Carlson, to watch the Sunday mass on the internet with all in your house. Our own live-streaming of Sunday mass is at 10:00 am and can be found at https:// www.twitch.tv/fatherboblive. And I hope you will also continue to read (which obviously you are doing if you are reading this) my regular bulletin article. It can be found on St. Stephen’s web site www.ststephenrichwoodsmo.com and St. Francis is looking into ways to make it more easily available. I will also place some hard copies (along with some missalettes) on the front porch of the rectory at SFA and on the porch of the church at SS in case you can not get internet. Alison is willing to email it to anyone, including SS parishioners, who gives her an email address. 
 
Let’s keep our parish connected. Call some other parishioners occasionally just to let them know that you/we are thinking of them. And most certainly pray for each other. I celebrate mass each day begging God to bless each of you. We are being tested; let us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, not fail. We can get through this, maybe even be strengthened by it. 
 
In the Gospels of the last two Sundays, Jesus gave water to a woman who was thirsty and light (sight) to a man born blind. Both water and light are absolutely necessary for life. A plant without both will whither and die. Today we hear of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, literally, giving physical life to someone who has died.  Jesus is the giver and Lord of life.
 
I nearly always read a shorter version of this Gospel at gravesides. I choose to do so because this passage makes clear that Jesus has power over life and death. If Jesus can raise Lazarus from the grave (Lazarus was only returned to physical life; he would die again.) so too can Christ raise us to a new, deeper spiritual life and also raise us to the fullness of eternal life to rejoice in his presence forever. 
 
In John’s Gospel, he emphasizes that nothing can limit God and that God is made manifest even, or especially, in the most difficult and tragic situations (as in a world-wide pandemic). Over the past two Sundays, we have heard Jesus emphatically reveal to his disciples that neither disability nor death are obstacles to God’s presence, grace, and life-giving touch. As I mentioned, blindness or any birth defect, was thought of in the time and culture of Jesus and the faith of the people as a punishment for sin. “Not so!”, said Jesus; he made clear that such thinking was unworthy of the love and mercy of God. “It (the man’s blindness) is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” After the death of Lazarus, some folks all but accuse Jesus of being evil for not doing any- thing to prevent his dying. Again Jesus says that his illness and death “is for the glory of God.” Just as blindness was not the end for the man but led to the light of faith, so too the death of Lazarus was not his end, but led to faith for many: “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he (Jesus) had done began to believe in him.” 
 
Jesus can always bring life from death, good from evil. We must hold on to that faith, especially now in this crisis. We can actually emerge from this trial with faith renewed, with new strength, and with a greater longing for and appreciation of the mass, the great spiritual gift of the Eucharist and the life-giving presence of Christ in the Church. 
 
It is often said, “two things are inevitable — death and taxes. Well, we know that some people pay no taxes. So only one thing is inevitable — death. It is absolute and final in this world. Yet it is an essential part of this life and gives meaning to life. It is the doorway to the fullness of life. All three readings assert the power of God over death. “God will open our graves and have us rise from them,” proclaims the prophet Ezekiel. With a God of such infinite love and power, how can any evil conquer us? Even death is overcome. Even death leads to the fullness of life eternal! 
 
Many people have felt like being in a tomb of despair or hopelessness, of addiction, or of grief. Perhaps they felt that death was the only answer. It is Christ who can raise us from such tombs. It is Christ who is Lord even of the Sabbath, even of life and death. Listen to Him. 
                                                                                                                               Fr. Bob
 
 
“Dear Padre” page courtesy of:
Mahn Funeral Home
Peaceful Ridge Cemetery
Mausoleum - Monuments - Cremation
900 Main & Mahn Ave - De Soto, MO 63020 - 636-586-2288/515 Collins Ave.-Festus, MO 63028 - 636-937-4444 
www.mahnfuneralhome.com