We are moving into the fifth week of Lent. The central theme for this week is Resurrection. We can now see the progression in themes throughout Lent, from the thirst for living water through the desire to be healed of our spiritual blindness, and to our ultimate desire to share in eternal life with the risen Lord. Death and resurrection are the themes that permeate today’s Scripture lessons.
The first reading is a powerful example of God’s promise and our hope in His promise. The prophet Ezekiel lived and preached at a time when the people faced many challenges and hardships. Their city had been destroyed, the Jerusalem Temple had been desecrated, and their land had not yielded enough food to feed the people. The people were discouraged and disappointed and started asking “if God was with them?” and “if God would remain faithful to his covenant and promises?” God, knowing their pain and suffering, spoke to the people through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will open your graves, have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” What this means is that God will do everything, even the impossible, to protect His people.
St. Paul, in the second reading, assures the early Roman Christians who were facing death by persecution, and us, who are surrounded by a culture of death, that the same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead and Who dwells within us will give life to our mortal bodies. Paul recognizes the Resurrection of Jesus as a reality, the basis of our Faith, and the root of our hope of sharing Jesus’ Resurrection.
For John, in today’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus is the final and greatest sign of Jesus, the Deliverer, a symbolic narrative of Jesus’ victory over death at the cost of his own life and a sign of his impending Resurrection. Describing this great miracle, the Church assures us that we, too, will be raised into eternal life after our battle with sin and death in this world. Thus, resurrection hope is the central theme of the Scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent. The readings assure us that our faith in Jesus, who is “the Resurrection and the Life,” promises our participation in that resurrection and new life.
While the miracle of raising Lazarus from the grave demonstrates Jesus’ Divine power over death itself, it also shows his human nature. His love for Lazarus and his sisters is profound. Martha’s and Mary’s complaint that Jesus’ presence would have averted their brother’s death shows us how real their friendship and faith in Him was. The Gospel says that Jesus was “deeply moved in Spirit and troubled.” This shows His love for Lazarus and his family, and for us all. The story also describes the special human quality that Jesus possessed, of openly expressing His love and concern for His people.
We can experience here and now the new lives that we hope to have in heaven. There are so many dark areas in our personal lives. We often bind ourselves with chains of addiction to alcohol, drugs, sexual deviations, slander, gossip, envy, prejudices, hatred and uncontrollable anger, and we bury ourselves in tombs of despair. Sometimes we are buried in the tomb of selfishness, filled with negative feelings such as worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt. Jesus invites us today to seek His help to loosen those chains and to come out of the tombs of our own creation. Is there an area of your life where hope is gone? Why not invite Jesus to visit this area? If we want Jesus to visit our dark dungeons of sin, despair and unhappiness, let us ask Jesus to bring the light and the power of the Holy Spirit into our private lives and liberate us from our tombs. Just as Jesus called out Lazarus from the tomb, He calls us also to “come out” of our sin and sinful ways to experience the new life that God promises in His Son Jesus.
Our parish mission last week was a wonderful success and I thank all of you for attending. I received a good amount of positive feedback from those who attended our parish mission. This week, we have Confession, and Adoration and Benediction on Wednesday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 pm and Stations of the Cross on Friday at 6:00 pm, followed by Bible study led by Deacon Vince. I was happy to see so many of our parishioners, especially from our parish organizations, attending Adoration and Benediction. These are both a powerful way of spending time with the Lord during Lent and deepening our love for the Holy Eucharist. I also would like to remind you that the Knights of Columbus will be serving a fish dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 pm.
In the Gospel, Jesus asked Martha a simple and profound question, “Do you believe this?” This week, ask God to open the eyes of your heart to see more clearly what Jesus means in your life. Ask Him to increase your faith so that you may answer as Martha answered Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”