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Fifth Sunday of Lent

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Today’s readings deal with Faith and the Resurrection.

 

The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel and tells us of how God brings life to those in the grave. God says that He will raise the dead of Israel and bring them back to their land.  Because of this, they will know that He is God.  He then promises that He will put His spirit in them. This is an allusion to the resurrection of Christ. As we know, Jesus was crucified, died and was buried.  However, He rose from the dead. We read in Matthew 27:50-54 how the dead walked out of their graves and entered Jerusalem. This event must have been frightening for those who witnessed it. However, it was not a scary scene like in “The Walking Dead” series. This event was foreshadowed in the first reading where God says that He will raise the dead of Israel and because of this the people will know that He is God.  Ironically, in Matthew 27:54, the centurion and those with him said, “Truly this man was God’s son.” God is the one who restores life to us both spiritually and physically.

 

This brings us to the responsorial psalm which begins with a cry out of the depths to God.  It is a prayer asking God for mercy, redemption and renewal. When we sin, our spiritual lives slowly die. There is nothing worse than a spiritual death.  The human being becomes immoral, not knowing right from wrong.

 

He or she is lost in darkness and because of this, begins to fall not knowing where he or she is going. The Psalm reminds us that God is the one who saves us.  He is the one who brings us out of the depths of the spiritual grave.  We must trust in Him.

 

The second reading from Romans tells us that we cannot truly please God if we are in the flesh, or in sin. It is only in living in the Spirit that we truly please God because we are restored with God’s grace.  St. Paul makes it clear that if we do not have the Spirit of Christ, then we do not belong to Him.  When we sin, we die spiritually and physically.  This is why St. Paul tells us that the “body is dead because of sin.”  Because of sin, we are open to all kinds of ailments and diseases.  Original sin damaged creation and all things exist without the perfection it had prior to the fall of Adam and Eve.  Christ will restore our lives to what they were supposed to be.  He rose from the dead and will give life to our bodies and entire existence as well.

 

Finally, the Gospel tells us about Lazarus who is the brother of Mary who anointed Jesus with perfumed oil as well as Martha. Lazarus is extremely ill; basically at the point of death.  Jesus is told of the illness and replies that the illness Lazarus is going through is not to end in death but will serve as an example of the glory of God.  In other words, Christ was telling them that He will be using this opportunity to show God’s glory via a miracle.

 

Jesus then plans to go back to Judea where He had some problems with the people.  The disciples advise Jesus not to go because the people will stone Him. Jesus then reminds them that those who walk in light do not stumble basically reminding them that He will be safe.  Then He tells them that Lazarus is “asleep” and He will awaken Him.  They thought He was referring to sleep, but Christ was referring to the fact that Lazarus had passed away.  Jesus knew this despite not being at Lazarus’ home.  When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Martha and Mary met with Jesus and Martha voiced her frustration to Him telling Him that if He had been there that Lazarus would still be alive.

 

Nevertheless, she still has faith that whatever Christ asks of God will be granted.  Martha believes in the final resurrection on the last day and Jesus replies saying that He is the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in Him even if they die will live.  Christ then asks Martha if she believes Him and she replies, “Yes, Lord” showing her deep faith. Martha then calls Mary to tell her that Jesus is there and is asking for her.

 

Mary approaches Christ and falls to His feet voicing her frustrations as well just like Martha did. Next we see Jesus showing His human side.  Despite being the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity, He becomes “perturbed and deeply troubled” when He sees Mary crying and the Jews who were there crying as well.  He then asks to be taken to where they had laid the remains of Lazarus and they take Him.

 

Once again we see Jesus shows His humanity. He begins to cry as well.  Here we have God crying. The Jews present ask Jesus “could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?  The people are complaining as well just like Mary and Martha did. Jesus is perturbed again we read, but goes to the tomb to see Lazarus’ body. Martha tries to stop Jesus saying that there will be a stench because the body has been there for four days. Jesus reminds her that God will show His glory via the death of Lazarus and calls out “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead corpse once lying in state comes to life and walks out. Imagine the scene for a moment. A man is dead for four days and all of a sudden walks out still wrapped in bands like a mummy of sorts.  Had it been me witnessing this, I probably would have run faster than the cartoon character “Road Runner” and would have been screaming like Mariah Carey!

 

However, the scene should not bring fright.  It was not a scene of a zombie movie or “The Walking Dead” series.  Lazarus woke from his sleep as Christ said he would.  This Gospel shows not only that Christ is God and that God has power over life and death, but also shows Christ’s humanity and genuine love. We also see how the people get frustrated that Jesus did not act quickly in either preventing Lazarus from dying or raising him from the dead.

 

How many times do we get frustrated when we pray for something and God does not grant it right away or perhaps not in the way we wanted?  This is a natural reaction because we still do not see the full picture.  We are like little impatient kids who feel that waiting just one minute is like a lifetime, so we get frustrated. Our doubts grow just like atheists who see children suffering in the world and quickly declare God as non-existent or uncaring.  Those who let this impatience get the best of them eventually doubt and fall into atheism believing God to not exist.  We must not be like this.

 

Like Martha and Mary we must have faith. Christ understand us. He shares our joys and pains as we read in the Gospel how He wept despite being God who can do anything.  God does care. He understands what we go through everyday. This is what is unique about the “God of Christianity” as atheists and academics describe Him.  The “God of Christianity” IS GOD. He is not a distant deity who demands sacrifices and does not interact with the people.  Christ is with each of us and shares with us our joys and our pains. The Gospel today is preparing us for Easter Sunday where Christ Himself rises from the dead. Death is something we all suffer. It is hard to get over the death of anyone, family or friend. However, it is our faith in Christ who is the resurrection and life that keeps us focused and of sound mind. We cry and are sad yes, this is a normal human response that even Jesus went through. However, we relax and know that death is not the end. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and will bring back to life those who believed in Him as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040614.cfm

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 34

Reading 1EZ 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R/ (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2 ROM 8:8-11

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
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.

Gospel JN 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
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?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Or JN 11:3-7, 20-27, 33B-45

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
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?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

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