Fifth Sunday of Lent (29 March 2020)

Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

 The readings this week drive home God’s supremacy over everything. To us mortals, there is only one certainty it seems – that when we are born, we begin an inexorable march towards death. But the readings today teach us that through Christ, we become immortal and that through His Grace, we can look forward to eternal life.

The first reading is taken from the prophet Ezekiel. To those the prophet preached to, his words must have seemed strange for the physicality of the images he drew on. The idea of graves being opened and people being raised from their graves may have a macabre ring to it. But a prayerful reflection will guide us to the truth that the prophet was in fact speaking of the day when God would raise His people to eternal life in His Kingdom. On that day, though we are dead because of our sin, we will be raised to eternal life and brought to the heavenly Jerusalem in God’s Promised Land in heaven above. And on that day we will know He is our God and we, His people. We will have eternal life because God will put His Spirit in us. This truth is reiterated in the Psalm (130), the response of which is “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” We learn from the first reading that indeed God gives us life.

In the second reading St Paul urges us not to be like those preoccupied with unspiritual things. We, who are reborn in Jesus Christ, must attune ourselves constantly to the spiritual life that awaits us. Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit must make its home within us; our physical bodies must be consecrated as temples to the Holy Spirit so we will belong to Christ. If the Holy Spirit is with us, death is powerless over us; and God gives life to our mortal bodies through the Holy Spirit living with us.

The Gospel illustrates these truths in terms we can understand. Lazarus was loved by Jesus (v 3) and those around him thought he was ill and was going to die but Jesus, the Son of God knew that Lazarus’ brush with death would end in God’s glory. As Jesus headed to Judaea to raise Lazarus, his disciples remind Him of the danger of going back there but Jesus has no fear of death. He has a mission for God and this is all that matters. Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus and his sisters four days after Lazarus had died. There was no possible doubt that the man had in fact suffered a physical death. Martha rued the absence of the Lord mistakenly believing that Jesus could be constrained in time and space – “If you had only been here”. But Jesus announces His Divinity – I am the resurrection and the life. And He then proved the truth of these words by raising Lazarus in front of all those gathered to witness this. In doing so, Jesus glorified God the Father and also showed that God alone has power over life and death. Seeing this, many came to believe in God.

We should not underestimate the power of death; but much more importantly, we should not underestimate the saving power of God. God created us for life and He wants each of us to be saved and to spend eternity with Him. It is to do His will that Jesus came to die on the Cross and to destroy the power of death over each of us. Through Him we are freed from our graves. This is the joy we celebrate at Lent.

Some points for reflection as you read the passages:

  1. What do you think the prophet Ezekiel is referring to when he speaks of the soil of Israel? How will be gain eternal life in this Israel, according to the prophet?

  2. What are some examples of unspiritual things that preoccupy our thoughts in this age? Why are these unsuitable for those who seek eternity with God?

  3. What indications are given in the Gospel of the fact that God was in complete control of the situation from beginning to end? How does this assure you?