Cardinal urges that amid coronavirus the poor be released from ‘tomb’ of loans, debt

Rome, Italy, Apr 2, 2020 / 12:45 pm (CNA).- The coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for the wealthy, and wealthy countries, to forgive the debt of poor persons and countries, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples preached Sunday.

“Where are the tombs of society right now? Where are we lifeless?” Cardinal Luis Tagle asked during his homily in a Mass said March 29 at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino in Rome, reflecting on Christ’s raizing of Lazarus to life.

“Where do we smell, where is our stench?” he continued. “There are many people who are losing their jobs, especially the daily wage earners. And that lack of resources and the poverty could be one tomb right now of many poor people. Could those who can afford it, go to those tombs and release the poor people who owe them money? Release them from their loans, release them from their debts.”

“And we even appeal to rich countries, at this moment, can you forgive the debts of the poor countries, so that they could use their dwindling resources to support their communities, rather than to pay the interest that you impose on poor countries? Could the coronavirus 19 crisis lead to a jubilee, forgiveness of debt, so that those who are in the tombs of indebtedness could find life? Untie them, release them,” he exhorted.

Cardinal Tagle said that the day’s Mass points to that fact that Christ “will triumph over death.”

“Let me reflect on this part of the Gospel: this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God. Jesus said this when he had been told of the sickness of Lazarus … Can we say the same thing now?  Can we with Jesus say, this coronavirus pandemic is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God? Even when we see the rising number of dead people. And we are in solidarity with those who are grieving, grieving. But Jesus is inviting us to faith.”

He recalled the resurrection of the dead, prophesied by Ezekiel, and asked, “how do we find life in the midst of signs of death?”

“Who will open our eyes to see signs of life when there are so many signs of death? It is God, Jesus, but we need faith. I thnk one good thing about this Covid-19 virus – I say again with all sympathy to those who are grieving – but with the eys of faith we see also life. Many of us think that if we pay the highest premium of insurance? No. your insurance cannot ensure everlasting life.”

“This virus is making us aware that all our successes and inventions, good as they are in themselves, they do not guarantee life. So people are now turning to faith, to God,” the cardinal reflected.

Cardinal Tagle noted that Christ went to Lazarus’ family “to express solidarity, sympathy, but beyond that, Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus. And in the creed, we say he went the place of the dead. This going to the tomb of Lazarus is a prefiguration of his own entry to the place of the dead. We even say he descended into hell, the place of the dead, in order to restore life, commnion with God; the place of isolation becomes a place of communion.”

Martha, he recalled, was embarrased to let Christ go to Lazarus’ tomb, saying there would be a stench.
“But Jesus can stand our stench. Jesus says I can handle that; where is he buried? Don’t worry. And he goes to the tomb and calls him out back to life.”

“My brothers and sisters, what are your tombs?” Cardinal Tagle asked. “Where do we stench? Where do we smell?”

After discussing debt forgiveness, the cardinal likened spending on armaments to a tomb: “Many countries spend so much country for arms, for weapons, for their national security, can we stop wars please? Could we stop producing weapons please? Could we get out of that tomb and spend the money for real security?

“Now we we realize we don’t have enough masks, when there are more than enough bullets. We don’t have enough supplies of ventilators, but we have millions of pesos, dollars, euros, spent on one plane that could attack people. Could we have this permanent ceasefire, and in the name of the poor, let us release money for real security, education, housing, food?”

Cardinal Tagle exhorted: “Those of us who have been living more than four days in the tombs of anger, jealousy, lack of forgiveness, por favor, get out of that. And start talking, untie your mouth, but not for gossip, but for a word of love, a word of forgiveness. Time is short. We don’t know how long life will last. So get out of that tomb, meet your friends, meet people and utter words of forgiveness, understanding. Untie your heart, let it beat again. Let the heart of stone now be a heart of flesh, let it live.”

“And like Jesus, weep, because we love. And if we with Jesus visit our tombs and the tombs of other people, bringing life because of faith, we hope his tears would become tears of rejoicing. And Lazarus will sing again. It is true. This illness is for the glory of God. For today, please share with your families and your loved ones, your tombs, and see how Jesus is leading you out of the tomb, leading us to life.”

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