Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, defeats the virus of sin and overcomes the rule of death

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The following homily was given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades March 29, 2020, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, during a livestreamed Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.

On this fifth Sunday of Lent, we hear the account of the greatest sign of Jesus’ public ministry: He brings Lazarus, who has been dead for four days, back to life. This miracle reveals Jesus’ divine power over life and death. We hear this amazing story at a time when we need to hear it — during this coronavirus pandemic, when thousands of people have died around the world and the deadly virus continues to spread, threatening the lives of many others.

There’s a detail at the beginning of today’s Gospel that makes me think of the fortitude and courage of our doctors, nurses, health care workers and first responders during this pandemic. They enter into situations of danger to care for those who are suffering. Jesus went into a situation of great danger when he went back to Judea to be with Martha and Mary and to awaken his friend Lazarus. The disciples warned him about this danger. They said to Him: “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”

Yes, Jesus wanted to go back there. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Our Lord courageously headed into danger to help Lazarus, to bring him back to life. Next Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will hear what happened because Jesus went back to Judea. He would be arrested. He would lay down His life and embrace death so that we can receive life.

Many medical workers around the world have contracted the coronavirus because they were dedicated, despite the risk, to care for their patients. Let us pray for them and for all those who continue to face danger, yet courageously do so because of their selfless commitment to the sick and the dying.

Notice in the Gospel that after Jesus said to the disciples: “Let us go to Lazarus,” the apostle Thomas said to the other disciples: “Let us also go to die with Jesus.” By faithfully following Jesus, the disciples head into the same dangerous situation with their Master.

I read this past week of a doctor who was asked by a reporter about entering into a hospital to care for his patients in a situation where there was a shortage of protective gear for the doctors. He said he did his best to protect himself with homemade gear. He told the reporter that he could not ‘not serve’ his patients, despite the risk. This doctor, like so many others, had the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude, of courage. Motivated not only by duty, but by love, he was ready to lay down his life for his patients.

I also heard about a nurse caring for coronavirus patients. She was asked about how she was doing and if she was afraid. She replied that she often prays silently in her heart as she moves from patient to patient words spoken by her patron saint, St. Joan of Arc: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”

Besides health care workers, there are the priests who also enter into danger to anoint and bring Viaticum to the sick and dying. You may have read the in the news that over 60 priests in Italy (20