Reflection on the Readings of the Fifth Sunday in Lent Year “A” by Fr. Claude Perera
The First Reading
God will restore the exiled nation of Israel who were living an experience of death.
The Responsorial Psalm
With the Lord is forgiveness and mercy.
The Second Reading
Paul contraposes between the flesh which brings about death and the spirit which raises up with the Risen Christ.
The Gospel Reading
John 11:1-45 (shorter version
Jesus declares himself our life and resurrection as he raises Lazarus from the dead.
During the past two Sundays as well as in today in the liturgy of the word, the Church proposes three very powerful baptismal themes in order to instruct her catechumens and the community of the faithful. We have already seen two of them; namely, Jesus as the source of lifegiving water and as the light of the world. Today we shall reflect of the theme of Jesus as our resurrection and life.
In the first reading of today we have the concluding section of Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones in chapter 37 (Please read the whole chapter 37). In his vision the prophet sees himself standing before a valley full of dry human bones. God asks him to prophecy to them. As he begins prophesying the bones become human figures covered with tendons, tissues, flesh and skin and were made alive. Then God said that similarly, the nation of Israel in exile was dead, but he will raise them up by taking them back to Palestine and making of them a nation. Old Testament types and symbols have their fullest realization in the New Testament realities of Christ, Mary and the Church. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones is one such a symbol; namely that of the resurrection from dead at the consummation of the world. This began with Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead on the Easter morning.
Raising of Lazarus from the dead in today’s gospel is a pointer to the resurrection of Jesus. The gospels have some similarities to Greek tragedies in which the fate of the leading cast happens to some of the secondary casts in advance. John the Baptist’s martyrdom prefigured Jesus’s own. Raising of Lazarus prefigured Jesus’s own resurrection. As in Greek dramas the literary technique of irony is at work. Irony means a character’s words or actions denoting exactly the contrary of what is said and done. Martha, Mary and others are convinced that Lazarus is dead, and the process of decomposition has begun. But the irony is that he is not in fact dead. He will be soon raised back to life by Jesus. Lazarus is raised up from the dead. But ironically the one who will in fact be raised up is not Lazarus, but Jesus.
A true believer who lives her/his faith in practice in day to day living cannot really die. Physical death is only a temporary phase. We will be raised up at the end by Him he rose from the dead. This is a fundamental tenet of our Christian faith. We were given a foreshadowing of the glory of the resurrection at our baptism. At baptism we died to sin and were raised up with Jesus to a life of grace. The white garment given to the newly baptized Christian during the baptismal ceremony is a symbol of this glorious state of purity and sanctity of a baptized Christian. But due post-baptismal sin this garment gets polluted and needs to be washed anew through the sacrament of reconciliation. That is what we are supposed to do during Lent by changing our ways. In the second reading of today St. Paul reminds us that If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. For we are not in the flesh; we are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. If the Spirit is active within us, then we ought to behave as spiritual women and men, not as dead bodies. In this current situation where you cannot avail yourselves of the sacrament of reconciliation, confess your sins to God and receive forgiveness until you get an opportunity for confession.
As people who await the glory of the resurrection, we need not fear death. In a death-filled environment in we live in this present moment of human history there is a devastating pandemic prowling around us. While praying to God to deliver us from an untimely death, let us become more and more convinced that death is the true door to enter true glory on the other side of the shore where a golden morn awaits us. To that faith we shall commend all the departed loved ones, the helpless souls in purgatory as well as those who have died during this pandemic.