Sunday readings in Brief 5 Lent A
Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalms 129 (130); Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
You shall live again
Dear friends, today is the fifth Sunday of Lent. Next Sunday will be Palm Sunday, and the beginning of the Holy Week, which is the culmination of Jesus’ Journey to the Cross and Resurrection. For our reflection today, I propose the theme, “You shall live again”. Life is the most precious thing that God gave us. All living beings possess a natural instinct for self-preservation. Though there comes a time when some people reach a point, where they find life no longer worth living and end up taking their own life, naturally no one wants to die today.
We believe God created and sustains us in life. We also believe the life that God gave us does not end here on earth but rather it separates from the body and returns to Him. However, in the scriptures ‘death’ is used as a metaphor to represent different realities. In the first reading, God refers to the situation of the people of Israel in exile as that of dead bones that have no hope of living again. They had lost the three most important things in the life of any community – their land (belonging), their king (leader), and their Temple (presence of God). God promises to put his spirit of life in them once again so that they can live again.
In our society too, many situations can be described with the metaphor of death. Broken relationships, broken families, lost faith, corrupt public service, extreme poverty, climate change, and collapse of value systems at the family and institutional levels, among others. All these situations need a new spirit to live again. The amazing thing is that everyone keeps on referring to the olden days when things were better than today even if we are the catalysts of their decay.
St. Paul reminds us that sin is the assassin of our life in Christ. When we sin we die in spirit and the result of it is the decay of values and a bad smell to those around us.
The Gospel passage about the raising of Lazarus is perhaps the best demonstration of how God can give us back the life we have lost in all the situations mentioned earlier. Though Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha were very close friends, upon receiving the news about his illness of Lazarus, Jesus intentionally delays going to see him so that the glory of God can be revealed. He only goes there when Lazarus is already dead. How many times we have felt that God has forsaken us because he delayed intervening in our situation? As I write this reflection, I hear some drizzling outside and I am hoping that it will turn to a heavy downfall because we were expecting rain in February and until now it has not come.
When Jesus finally arrives there, all hope was gone. Mary is mostly upset because he loved Jesus so much and knew that Jesus could have done something but he delayed. Martha who one day was busy cooking when Jesus visited them, is the one now welcoming Jesus and shows no hurt feelings. She also shows faith in Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection of the dead. When finally Mary comes to see Jesus, he weeps not only because he loved the three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but also because they had not realized that he could still do something. When the disciples were frightened by the waves while with him in the boat, Jesus was disappointed because they did not yet understand him for who he was.
Jesus used the death of Lazarus to reveal the power of the father who sent him to the people so that they can believe in him. We are told many who had seen this believed in him. Faith is a journey and like any journey, there are difficult climbs and steep slopes. Sometimes there are very difficult terrains that make us lose hope. However, if Jesus is our friend and we believe in him, our hope remains even in the most hopeless of situations. Here in Simanjiro, people are sowing seeds for the third time because of the delay of the rain. Every time they see heavy clouds, they hope that it will turn into rain and so they run to the farms to sow again. However, there are those who have completely lost hope because they have no more seeds to sow. Even in such a situation, we keep encouraging them to hope in the power of God who can turn any situation into a blessing.
Dear friends, as we approach the Holy Week, where we contemplate deeply about the love of God for us, let us be magnanimous to those in our communities who are suffering in one way or another. Again, let us know that material things are not enough. People in need require hope and reassurance. It is not what we donate that changes people’s lives but how we donate it. Our donations need to bring authentic life to those that receive them. It should not be only for publicity but for true humanness.
Have a fruitful Lent
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD
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