Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”


We are profoundly grateful to Fr Dominic Robinson, who gave the most inspiring mediation at the evening of recollection last Thursday, having celebrated the first Mass of the Feast of St Joseph, in a sung plainsong Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form.
The shrine of Saint Joseph in the Conventual Church
Forty members of the Order, Companions, Patients and regular Mass-goers attended the evening, which concluded with holy hour, confessions and Benediction.

Fr Robinson has been so gracious as to provide a resume of his mediation, which we include below, for the benefit both of those who wish to dwell further upon his talk, and for those unable to attend:

You are recommended to read the Gospel passage first, John 11:1-45, a text may be found here:
I am basing my talk on the Gospel of the 5th Sunday of Lent for Year A.   This is always an option for this coming Sunday, especially from a catechetical point of view as there are some very important Lenten themes.  So it is also useful for reflection in our pilgrimage of faith leading to the Easter Festival.  And it’s good to take time now to reflect on the Word of God the Church prescribes for the Liturgy and to pray with it – as Benedict XVI encourages us to do repeatedly.
I will give 3 basic points:
1)    On our intimacy with Christ & inner disposition – prayer, also fasting & almsgiving as outward expression of this.
2)    The Sacrament of Confession, Penance & Reconciliation, & spiritual resurrection, restoration of intimate friendship with God
3)    Seeing the power of this Sacrament which comes from God through the Church, from outside of myself in my human finitude.

1)            Lazarus comes out of his cave to be untied at Jesus’ command, but what’s in the background here; what’s between the lines in this great drama of new life?  Who is this Lazarus? 
·               Lazarus is the man who is also part of an ordinary human family who cares deeply for him.  They have lived, loved, and struggled together.  They are people with similar character traits as us and our own families: sometimes like Martha, perhaps veering towards the obsessive and pushy – yet still caring always for those whom she loves;  sometimes like Mary – breaking down, unable to cope amid the confusion and sorrow, yet still lovingly doing her best.
·               And into this family walks Jesus and he becomes the centre of this family not as a walk-in part in this incident at which Lazarus is raised to life, but over time he becomes part of this family, and we’re told He loves Lazarus deeply. 
·               And we can imagine that Jesus is gradually welcomed into their lives: and there is a process of transformation to greater unity, greater faith, and greater love. 
·               So we are invited to see ourselves as we are, with all our sinfulness, all our hardness of heart, the annoying aspects of our personality, and to welcome Christ in to get to know us: so to be honest about our everyday struggles, whether in our families, at work, or wherever, and to be prepared to allow Jesus to be right there in the middle of us, and to know He comes to us as the One Who loves us, and who wants to stay with us.
·               And so to spend time in prayer, examining our consciences and asking myself am I disposed to let Our Lord in, or are there particular things I do or maybe don’t do, which shut him out.  So we need to ask: where is my sin?  Sin is that which shuts out God.  And to be able to do that we are called also in Lent to give alms and to fast: the exterior expression of our desire to let Christ in can help our interior disposition: but the key is disposition – am I ready to let Him into my life: that’s something to ponder for ourselves.
 2)            And that’s really just the start, the necessary inner disposition, recognising my sin, and allowing Our Lord into my home. 
·               But let’s return to the Gospel because this story is much more dynamic.  Because what ensues is a great miracle – a miracle which unbinds Lazarus from death and restores him to life. 
·               Note, however, that he comes out in his burial clothes – unlike Our Lord who is re-clothed in a glorious body.  Lazarus is unbound and returned to life with his family, which will involve pain, suffering, sin, but he knows deeply how the Lord Who loves him deeply is with him constantly.  And when we encounter the Lord He constantly wants to unbind us, to call us back into His Family, that is to the Church, and there - in the sacraments which mediate Christ’s Presence – and in particular the Sacrament of Confession – of Penance and Reconciliation – the sacrament which unbinds us and again and again, returns us to His Family strengthened for the earthly pilgrimage.   
·               A little about this wonderful sacrament: the Catechism of the Catholic Church is incredibly rich on the effects of this sacrament in our lives of friendship with God:
 1468 ‘The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship. Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true spiritual resurrection, restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God’.   
It is then that intimacy with Christ, that peace of mind in knowledge that we are part of God’s Family and doing His will that the Sacrament brings, reconciliation with God’s Family, that is the Church: 
1469 ‘This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members. Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland:  For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin. In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life’.
 3)            A final point returning to the Gospel story:
·               Imagine the scene of this unbinding: it’s worth thinking about.  Is Lazarus now come to life unbinding himself slowly?  No – that’s actually impossible – he needs to be unbound.  And that’s worth pondering. In our own culture we hear much about self-help, detox, rehab, spiritual spring-clean on our own – but for us this is impossible.  Our own efforts are a necessary precondition – we need to make an effort - but we are unbound of our sins and restored to friendship with God by Christ through the sacrament and in the Church for the Church. 
·               I think – as again and again – Pope Benedict puts his finger on the challenge posed by our western culture obsessed with self-help spirituality and feel-good religion in understanding this: - in his Lenten address he comes at it from the perspective of the justice of Christ, which is expressed in the power of His unconditional loving mercy: 
‘What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that “expiation” flows from the “blood” of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God Who opens Himself in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the “curse” due to man so as to give in return the “blessing” due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14). … In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.” This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the “greatest” justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.’
·               So I encourage you now to ponder this well-known Gospel story and what I’ve said and to ask yourself what is my inner disposition to friendship with God in prayer? 
·               And am I aware of the power of the Sacrament of Confession to restore it?
·               Do I see in the Sacrament the power of Christ, the Lover Who is the Other Who alone can unbind me and restore me to God’s family? 
Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ
19th March 2010