If You Had Been Here

5th Sunday of Lent | March 29, 2020

See today’s readings here. This homily was preached online due to Covid-19. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons


If you had been here . . .

I will always be grateful for Martha’s courage in uttering this line.

For it is a line that I believe many of us have uttered when we were in our lowest places.

When we walked into the empty house after the divorce papers were finalized

Or when we relapsed after months of sobriety

When we got the phone call: the cancer is back

Or we were standing by a casket, staring into the face of the one we love, and barely recognizing them.

When we felt trapped in the bottomless pit of our depression

Or read the email that said, we regret to inform you

And I would guess that there are a few of you thinking these words as we speak.

Looking around at a world caught in the throes of a pandemic and economic free fall.

If you had been here . . .

It all would have been ok.

No pain. No loss. No fear. No darkness. No death.

If you had been here . . .

We would have had answers. A solution. A way forward.

Now full disclosure, I feel like I utter this line every couple of months,

Usually after a particularly difficult moment with a student.

And I stare into the sky going . . . where were you?

Where were you when this kid went through hell?

When his world was falling apart?

So a few months ago, I am in that place, holding a graduate as he wept. Pouring forth years of accumulated grief and trauma, loss and depression, anger and regret and guilt.

I let it crash over me like a wave.

Crushing me. Draining me. Wiping me out.

And I remember looking up at one point and thinking . . . where have you been?

But right before I walked away, the young man looked at me and said, Fr. Brian, do you pray for me?

Of course I spluttered.

He then looked at me and said. I know. I think you are the reason I believe in God. For just when I think I am too far gone. Just when I think I am lost. You reappear and pull me back.

I just stared at him.

Then he pulled me into a hug, whispered I love you and turned and went back into his home.

But I left that night reminded of the great truth of my faith. The truth that we are reminded of once again this night.

Which is that in answer to Martha’s question, we are given an ironclad guarantee.

I am right where you are.

I am in the arms that hold you. The tears that are shed on your behalf.

I am in the smile that greets you. The loving words that are whispered to you.

I am in the parent who waits for you to come home and the spouse who draws you close and lets you gently fall asleep in their arms.

I am in the best friend who keeps Facetiming you and the teacher who looks you in the eye and says I know something is bothering you. I’m here for you.

I am in the nurse putting in a 12 hour shift to save a stranger and in the grandmother sewing masks for her grandson and in the 5 year old writing messages of hope on the sidewalk.

And I am in you. In every moment of grace when you face the tomb and yet find the strength and courage to rise again.

Where were you, Jesus?

Right where he has always been.

With us, in us, the body of Christ.

May God be Praised

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