5th. Sunday of Lent -Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus: The Lord of Life”.
Are you discouraged, worried, and uncertain, in pain, oppressed, lonely and forgotten? If so, this Sunday’s readings are for you. All three readings challenge us to look from our despair to a new life and a new hope.
The three readings of today are all centred on the life that God wishes to give to all people.
The first reading introduces us to the theme through the prophecy of Ezekiel.
The Gospel presents the ‘New Message’ brought by Jesus. It is no longer a matter of resurrection on the last day, but the gift of life that prevents the ‘death’ of a person.
In the second reading, Paul speaks of the Spirit, the cause of Christ’s as well as our own resurrection.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
The first reading is from Ezekiel, one of the three prophets who concerned themselves with the Jewish exile in Babylon (modern day Iraq).
Ezekiel was a priest who was deported to Babylon in 587 BC with many of the people of Israel. It soon became evident to him that his people had lost all hope of liberation; they had become like a body without a head, like a corpse in a tomb. One day God entrusted the prophet with the mission of proclaiming to his people the miracle that he was about to accomplish in their favour; he would raise them to new life.
He addresses his people who were terribly downhearted over the loss of their Temple, their city (Jerusalem) and their country. Little was left to them. To these down-and-out people, Ezekiel, in God’s name says, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.”
In Babylon the Jewish people were experiencing a condition similar to their slavery in Egypt 700 years before; their spirits were at their lowest ebb. Ezekiel’s words come to them like a shot of adrenaline. As hopeless as things look, Ezekiel assures them, God has not forgotten them. Indeed God has plans for them to return to their own land.
The words of Ezekiel can still be applied to situations of death in which men and women often find themselves today; ‘dead’ is the family where husband and wife ignore each other, do not speak to each other and betray each other; ‘dead’ is the youth addicted to drugs, corruption and theft; ‘dead’ also is the community through a lack of love and compassion whose members speak evil of each other.
Such situations are human without a cure, but the Spirit of the Lord can give new life back even to such corpses.
Now the resurrection is only possible when we are down among the dead, and therefore it is entirely appropriate that the Psalm for today begins ‘out of the depths’. It is probably one of the songs that the Israelites used to sing when on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; but there was no mistaking the urgency of the plea, ‘Lord, hear my voice; let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading; if you keep a watch on our iniquities, Yah, who will remain standing?’
It is a long wait, and there is a lovely image counselling patience: ‘my soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word. My soul is longing for the Lord more than watchman for daybreak. Let the watchman count on daybreak and Israel on the Lord.’ In the end, absolute confidence: ‘and He will redeem Israel from all its iniquities’. The penitent makes no excuses. He knows that God is a God who forgives, who in his loving kindness is faithful to his people.
The watchman’s wait will not be in vain. God will bring his people to life again.
Paul lifts up the spirits of the Roman Christians with these words: ‘anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him’. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the ‘Spirit of Life’ is alive because of the righteousness.
All people die. The material life, which they share with other living creatures, does not last forever. Jesus was one of us, one like us, so he died; he had to die. He rose again. Why? Paul tells us in the reading of today that the Resurrection happened because Jesus possessed the fullness of the Spirit of God. The life of a person has a beginning and an end, but God was not born and he will never die.
Could Jesus who possessed this life die? Certainly not! One day his material life ended, the Spirit of God raised him up and made him enter into the glory of the Father with his body. Paul goes on; we too, who have received the same Spirit in Baptism, our own life cannot die. Our life in this world will end, but it will not be the end of everything. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give us eternal life.
In today’s Gospel reading we see how Jesus is ‘Life’ and gives life even in situations where everybody thinks that death has triumphed. He brings his friend, Lazarus back to life after having being buried for four days. Jesus confirms that he is ‘Life’ and that to believe in him is to live a ‘New Life’.
This last sign (miracle) Jesus performs in the Gospel of John will lead to an intensification of opposition and the decision to kill him. The raising of Lazarus is a first sign of the reality, which his Resurrection after his own death will fully reveal. This passage is the third of the series of readings used in the Christian communities where Catechumens and Candidates are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Initiation and Confirmation at Easter.
At the heart of today’s Gospel is the statement of Jesus to Martha: “I am the Resurrection and the Life, the one who believes in me, even if he dies will live; and whoever believes in me will never die”.
Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, was seriously ill. His sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus about their brother. Jesus delayed coming to them until Lazarus had been dead for four days. Martha’s first words to Jesus are, “Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that online casinos God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus assures Martha that Lazarus “will rise again.” Martha agrees that indeed he will rise again “in the resurrection on the last day”. Jesus replies, “I am the Resurrection.”
Jesus orders the removal of the stone that closes the opening of the tomb. That stone was meant to separate the world of the living from the world of the dead. For those who believe in Christ this separation no longer exists. (After the Resurrection of Jesus, death has been conquered, and the barriers between this world and the world of God have been removed forever). Martha believes him but does not comprehend what he means until he calls Lazarus from the grave with the words “Lazarus come out!” By raising Lazarus to life, Jesus shows that he is Master even of death and can give to those who follow him a ‘Way of Life’ that is more powerful than death. Death takes many forms. Many people experience situations of violence, rejection or discrimination, isolation, things that are not very different from physical death. People who reject God and pursue only selfish interests live a form of spiritual death. Catechumens and the Baptized in their journey together towards Easter are called upon to look for ways of overcoming such situations. Jesus likewise calls each one of us out of every twist of fortune that renders us imprisoned and without hope. He is the Resurrection both on the last day and on every day of our lives.
Let us hear the divine strength in Jesus’ voice: ‘Come out of the tomb of death. Unbind him and let him go free.’ It was exactly as Ezekiel promised in the first reading of today. Mary was blinded by tears of grief, Martha was afraid of the stink! We must never underestimate the power of God. When we forget that he is Lord of life our vision is obscured and we fear the worst.
Today’s Gospel provides a wealth of reflection as Holy Week approaches. Jesus offers ‘eternal life’, which begins with faith now and lasts forever. “Eternal Life” in John’s Gospel is not primarily unending life but ‘authentic life’, or life in its ‘fullness’. Both Martha and Mary are models of people coming to a deep faith even in the face of doubt. The teachings of this Sunday bring the Catechumens and Candidates to the climax of their instructions and to the start of their life-long journey of faith. They have now been made fully aware that the day of their Baptism is also the day of their resurrection. That is when they will receive the ‘Life’ that will never end when they become ‘True Witnesses’ to Christ.
Obedience to Jesus’ word makes possible what we thought impossible. Obedience to his Word helps us to participate in the Life he wants to share with us. The Word of God can lead us to ‘New Life’ only when we welcome it in faith, open up our hearts and allow it to change us. It also challenges us to take responsibility for our brothers and sisters who, like Lazarus, are loved by Jesus. If we see someone buried alive under the weight of their trials, difficulties and despair we are invited to do as Jesus and the community do in the Gospel; to call them, and help them go free. Let this be our Lenten task.
Even when all seems lost, a new beginning is always possible with Jesus.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
5th Sunday of Lent Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Ezekiel’s vision of the ‘dry bones’ is dazzling in its flamboyant imagery. First a field of dry bones, next, skeletons knit together in the air and finally, sinew and flesh creeping back over the forms so that human lives are restored to the world. The vision ends with God’s vow to bring life out of death for those who belong to the Maker of the Covenant. Do we truly belong to the Maker of the Covenant, the Lord our God? Or do our hearts lie elsewhere?
Mon. … Through Ezekiel, a promise of life is made to a people who, like dry bones, have no more hope of living, to a people who have been crushed, deported and demoralized. Ezekiel announces the Resurrection. The Spirit of God, our Creator and Liberator will give life to people annihilated by disgrace.
Tue. …These words are especially stirring and exiting to us because we have all been there, in the valley of ‘dry bones’ – in illness, grief, emotional paralysis, shame and disgrace and the endless ways that people go dead in the midst of life. We are never alone even in our darkest moments, as the ‘Promise-maker’ who holds the key to every door has opened our graves to new life.
Wed. … If Ezekiel prophesied that God would put flesh back on our bones, Paul seems determined to strip us down to mere spirit. This would be a faulty reading of Paul’s message, which uses the Greek word for ‘flesh’ in the larger sense of the material realm. Paul is not warning us against our bodies or the created world necessarily, but against placing our trust in things that are passing, otherwise known as materialism.
Thur. … There is no more powerful miracle story in the Gospels than what happened that day at Bethany. The scene was taut with emotion: Martha’s strength, Mary’s grief and the mourner’s wailing. Jesus himself was moved to weeping at the pain and loss that death yields. Jesus then lifts up his prayer and the dead Lazarus wriggles awkwardly out of the tomb, still bound by his shroud. What wonder, and terror is in the power of God, can we ever truly comprehend it?
Frid. … Waking Lazarus from the dead is what finally condemns Jesus to his own death in John’s Gospel. He goes too far for the authorities, who are as spooked by the reports of this event as are some of the witnesses themselves. This is testimony to a power that it practically uncontainable. If not stopped, such power could change the established order for all time. Do you wish to allow the power of the Word to change your established order and bring you ‘New Life’ or do you wish to hang on to what is comfortable like the Jewish authorities of that time?
Sat. … Jesus’ power over death opens up for us the possibility of eternal life. “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life”. The ‘Paschal Triduum’ will celebrate his dying and rising, which is the very ‘centre of our faith’.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, may we continually hear the divine strength in Jesus’ voice: ‘Come out of the tomb of death, unbind them and let them go free’. We pray that by our reliance on the living Spirit of God and our sincere repentance and our Lord’s saving forgiveness, may we rise up out of our self-made tombs to ‘New Life’ in Christ our Lord.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.