So here’s what we know about St. Patrick. Well, he wasn’t Irish, but that’s a small point. Evidently he was the son of wealthy Christian parents about 1600 years ago in Roman Britain. So I will give emphasis to the Roman over the British, sounds classier and stuff. As the story goes (one of them anyway) he was working on his father’s country estate when a band of pirates (arrrrrggg) kidnapped him and took him to Ireland selling him as a slave. This happened when he was about 16 or so. He spent his days(and nights) as a shepherd for six years. He escaped and made his way back home. During those long cold nights in Ireland, Patrick was struck by a spiritual awakening which only grew inside him over the years and actually would in time, change his life. He went to Gaul and studied in a monastery. While there he felt he was being drawn to be a missionary to convert the pagan tribes of Ireland. So that is exactly what he did. He returned to the Emerald Isle to preach the Gospel eventually being ordained a priest and later a bishop. His mission lasted about 30 years. During that time he established monasteries, churches and schools all over the place. He died on this date in 461 C.E.
I know his history is a little sketchy and it is more traditional than factual. We do know this, he was a missionary to Ireland, end of story. He is actually celebrated not only Catholics but protestants as well (those who protest Catholicism). It’s a cool story of pain and suffering followed by joy and hope. And speaking of hope and joy…today’s reading is the wonderful story full of sorrow and hope of the raising of Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus from the dead, one of the last miracles before Holy Week. And it is a doozy.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?” (John 11)
One of the neat things laid out here in this Gospel reading is the pain and sorrow the friends and family of Lazarus had toward his passing. This sorrow is wiped away in a moment when they see their friend and brother’s image emerge from the darkness the cave of his grave into the sunlight. Just like that. Faith had changed sorrow into joy, suffering into gladness. How cool is that. Martha, the practical sister doesn’t want Jesus to open the tomb because by now her brother probably stinks but goes ahead anyway. This little act of faith brings the joy. So Patrick through his sufferings and Lazarus’ family through their suffering have both experienced great happiness and contentment. We do what we can do and what is left undone becomes the bridge that faith builds.
Lent is almost over. One more Sunday before the Easter celebration, but we need to go through the events of Holy Week with all of its pain and mounting despair to really appreciate the joys of the Resurrection. Would that we could go around it, but it doesn’t work that way.
and so it goes…