Lent – 5th Sunday
March 9, 2008
Here we are at the 5th Sunday of Lent - almost finished with our Lenten journey. Easter is almost here.
The story of the raising of Lazarus in the gospel of John is the third major miracle story presented to us during the Lenten season. In the gospel of John it is also the last sign that Jesus performs pointing to his role as messiah. Once again, we are called upon to reflect on its meaning in light of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist as celebrations of the paschal mystery.
The central question presented here for us is the one Jesus posed to Martha. He said; “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
The death and life presented to us are spiritual concepts. While Jesus raised Lazarus’ body from death in this event, at some point in time after that, he once again died. His body now sleeps in death, awaiting the final resurrection promised to us by Jesus and by the prophets.
The readings are full of the promise of resurrection. Ezekiel prophesies how the Lord will open our graves that we may rise from them. St. Paul writes about the bright promise given to us at baptism. God himself will conquer our sin and death and give life to our mortal bodies.
We also know through what scripture and the church teaches that all human beings will be raised from the dead. Some will be raised to live joyfully forever in the presence of God. Others will be raised to eternal separation from God in the punishment of hell.
The question of belief is, therefore, very practical.
Those who believe in Jesus will do as he calls them. Those who don’t believe in him will, in the long run, show themselves as children of corruption.
And what is belief in Jesus? Belief is the true essence of life. Life of the eternal sort produces fruit that goes beyond mere physicality. Belief in Jesus by truly doing what he tells us produces a radical kind of love that transcends. Consider: the greatest humanitarians have always been people of faith. Mother Theresa, St. Martin de Porres, Martin Luther King Jr., St. Katherine Drexell, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, are all examples of people living heroic lives of faith who left a legacy of pure love. And we believe that their spirits rest forever in God. Their works were works of the spirit. The fruit of their works was always love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
And what is the fruit of having no faith? Think of the institutions set up that deny God’s existence. The Soviet Union was established in 1917 and its official creed was that God does not exist. It set out to destroy the Church. It was a source of murder, violence, corruption, and poverty. Consider modern capitalism. The era of “greed is good” has not left us. The pursuit of money as a God devalues the dignity of all human life and always results in the creation of a culture of death. Abortion, euthanasia, and every other assault against the dignity of human life is the eventual fruit of a life in the absence of the one true God.
The great test of our day is to live within all the temptations of this world and then to choose on a daily basis whether or not we truly believe in Jesus. Will we make a radical “yes” to him and then do as he calls us? This is what it means to live out the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.
He calls us to love God. Will we?
He calls us to love one another. Will we?
He calls us to follow his commands as handed to us through scripture and tradition. Will we?
He calls us from death to life in the spirit. Will we?
Jesus’ question to Martha is also his question to us right now.
“I am the resurrection and the life;
Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”