Offers food for thought
Part Five of the Lenten Series
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent we reflect on the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus, and how St. John helps us see that we are, like Lazarus, called out from our tombs and set free to live new lives in Christ. We are only two weeks from the celebration of our Easter Joy. During that time we will rejoice on Palm Sunday and fall hard at the honest admission that we are so easily willing to abandon our freedom and betray our Lord. But, as we know, all is not lost. God’s mercy is boundless and so our hope burns eternal. We will dive into this truth during the Lenten Mission Talk between Palm Sunday and Easter, when we will so much more embrace and understand the profound meaning of our Baptism. Easter Sunday will begin a new series for the Easter Season leading into the Feast of Pentecost.
The first reading for this 5th Sunday of Lent, points us to God’s power over death and that the Israelites do not hope in vain to be fully united with God in the future. In the second reading St. Paul speaks of how this truth and promise has been extended to all who have received the Spirit that gives life, and having become the adopted children of God through the death and resurrection of Christ we are now temples of the Holy Spirit.
The raising of Lazarus, in this week’s Gospel reading, points clearly to what is at the heart of John’s Gospel, that Jesus is the ‘way, the truth and the life’ ‘through whom all things were made’ and without whom ‘no one can come to the Father’. John, however, while affirming the final resurrection of the dead to eternal life, also affirms that Lazarus represents all of us who are being brought back to life, in God, right now. Not just the future resurrection of the dead, but from the moment we accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation and in this moment today and every day when we once again ‘repent and believe’. Jesus confronts the power of death itself and calls humanity to live in the new life of resurrection, here and now.
Jesus came to us, and quoting Isaiah, declared that, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:18-21)
The Gospels depict Jesus engaged in a struggle against death, but it is not against the death of the body, but rather the permanent separation of a person from God. The image of Lazarus asleep is a symbol for us of being asleep in sin, and the fourth day of his burial is an image for us of God’s power to save us even when it seems that we are completely lost, beyond help… spiritually dead.
Saving Lazarus from the grip of death, starts with the stone being taken away from the tomb. Just as our own salvation and life in Christ begins with the removal of that which keeps us in the darkness of the shadow of death. Then Jesus gives thanks to his Father and calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Recognizing the grace that comes from the Father and who’s power is in the Son, Jesus calls us out from our lives of sin and death, he calls us out from darkness into light, he calls us from being separated from God and into communion. Lazarus emerges with his hands and feet bound and a cloth around his face. Jesus victoriously commands, ‘Unbind him, let him go free’. In the presence of Christs healing power, we are made free and that which has kept us bound, is begun to be removed from us.
The beloved disciple never misses an opportunity, in his Gospel, to affirm the mission and identity of Christ and what that means for humanity. He came so that ‘we might have life and have it abundantly’. What came to be through him was life, and the life was the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1–5) God calls each one of us out of the valley of the shadow of death and into the fullness of life. We are to live without fear of death. We are to renounce sin and Satan and all his lies.
His mission has been made our mission. In the imitation of Christ, we are to show others the way, into truth and life. As his followers, we re-enter the valley of the shadow of death, no longer it’s prisoner, and pour out our lives in love of neighbor for love of God. This is what it means to live a risen life here and now.
We can go forward, filled with hope, knowing that ours is a God of life who wants us to live life to the full. We can rejoice that the Messiah has come, and sing Hosanna to the Highest, as we place palms at his feet and our King claims his Kingdom.
Our encounter with Christ and experience of grace has inspired us to listen to him and to respond to his offer of salvation. We have believed and repented and now we continue to listen to him ever more attentively and with growing love to obediently ‘do whatever he says’. We were blind but now we see, we were dead but now we live. We live in the light, as children of light who worship and who give testimony to the glory of God. That’s what we were created for, that’s what we are called to.
Our experience of conversion, of transformation and transfiguration has prepared us and made us eager to enter the fullness of life, through the dying and rising of Christ, and become children of God through baptism. Every day and especially at Easter, we most solemnly recall our baptism and recommit ourselves to #LiveFree.
Part One of the Lenten Series
Part Two of the Lenten Series
Part Three of the Lenten Series
Part Four of the Lenten Series
Part Six of the Lenten Series
Conclusion of the Lenten Series
Audio version of this homily, as preached at Mass
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.