April 2, 2017 — Fifth Sunday of Lent
EZ 37: 12-14; PS 130: 1-8; ROM 8: 8-11; JN 11: 1-45
One of the struggles we face from the moment we can think critically is what might be called “the mystery of life.” Particularly during this Lenten season this is something on which we need to meditate. Passion Sunday is next weekend and Easter is only two weeks away. We probably have at least a basic understanding that what we are really preparing for is Resurrection. The readings on this Fifth Sunday address Resurrection and call us to hear and consider what it means.
St. Paul certainly provides us thoughts on Resurrection in the Second Reading from his letter to the Romans when he says, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” Is the Spirit dwelling within us? What have we done during this Lent to bring that Spirit to life? Those are questions we must ask always but especially at this time.
Our First Reading comes to us from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel the person has fascinated scholars for centuries. He was unique in many ways. In his writings he tended to use symbols and allegory more than the other prophets. His visions were striking and distinctive as well. Today’s reading includes one of those visions and a clearly apparent reference to the concept of resurrection. God says in today’s reading “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them,” a definite allusion to resurrection. Two verses later God says, “I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”
This is the same Spirit of course St. Paul addresses in the Second Reading. It is the Spirit which is at the heart of our search and our endeavors to prepare for resurrection, both that of Jesus on Easter and our own. This all has to do with life, not death. It is this life which should give us hope. That is what we are truly seeking — new life and hope. Are we addressing the lifeless and hopeless characteristics of our life? Our calling is to give life. Living as good stewards is one of the ways that we can do that.
We have already begun our reflection on St. Paul’s words in the Second Reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. As Paul says basically if the Spirit is within us, we have life. The Spirit is in everyone, but we need to allow it to be reflected in how we live. If the Spirit is leading us to be more like the Lord, then it is at work in our hearts. We are called to be disciples and to be in Christ. However, Paul assures us that Christ is within us also. We must let Him show forth and shine. With that commitment we renew and reflect that hope which resurrection promises.
We hear the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel Reading from St. John. This is a reminder to us that resurrection is ongoing. The idea of dying and rising is something we all need to do every day. Much of this has to do with relationships, our relationship with God, with those close to us, and with all those with whom we may come in contact. Now during Lent is a time when we need to give these relationships a particular prominence.
We have no idea of what rising again will be. We are given some hints in Holy Scripture, but we are also reminded that it is beyond our very understanding.
There is another facet of Lazarus being raised from the dead which is notable during our Lenten preparations and our striving for resurrection. When Lazarus emerges from the tomb, he is “tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.” Are we bound in some ways? Are what binds us things which we should now be trying to free ourselves from? In these final days of Lent we still have time to judge what it is that keeps us from finding the new life offered by Christ. Only Jesus can give us this new life. The Lord reminds us in today’s Gospel, “…if you believe, you will see the glory of God.” Hope is there for us, but we must seize it.