Fifth Sunday of Lent – Year A

by Fr Z Ngwenya

Click here for Sunday’s readings

Readings  First: Ezekiel 37:12-14
Respons. Psalm: Ps. 130: 1-8
Second: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John 11:1-45

The God of Christianity is a God of life. He is the Lord of life. He is the God of the living and not of the dead. God’s glory, as St. Irenaeus says, is that man lives, in his fullness and integrity. To bring this about, God uses every means with inexhaustible patience and fidelity, as is reflected throughout the long history of God’s relations with his people, Israel. One stage corresponds to the exile in Babylon, between the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Exiled in Babylon, the people, and especially its hope in the future, languish and die. This situation prompts Ezekiel to find a symbol in the dry bones, stripped of flesh and dead. Through the prophet, God reveals to the people that he will raise them from the graves in which they are now, that he will give them new life and bring them back to the land of the living, the Promised Land.

Ezekiel’s symbol becomes reality in the case of Lazarus. He is a man of flesh and blood who lives in Bethany with his sisters, Martha and Mary. He had fallen sick and died. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, he had already been in the tomb for four days, a period that in the Jewish mentality confirmed that death was definitive and certain. But Jesus is life, and at the same time he loves Lazarus with the love of a true friend. What does Jesus do? He goes to the tomb and cries loudly: “Lazarus, here! Come out!” And Lazarus returns to be among the living once more. Of course, Lazarus, for his part, refers to another, superior reality: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we will be celebrating in a fortnight, and the new life the risen Christ brings to people, in its full physical and spiritual reality through the action of the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies.” This step from death to life takes a real form of unsurpassable fullness and disconcerting newness in Christ, who in dying overcame death and regained life forever. In this world, we Christians participate in the life of the risen Christ by grace and through the Spirit, and we will likewise share in God’s eternity. This is why for us Christians death is a transition to a new way of living.

Brothers and sisters, perhaps because of the situation we find ourselves in during this time of suffering and pain, we have a depressed and disillusioned view of Christian life. A view that only sees problems, tensions, faults, human weaknesses, and limitations, religious and moral shortcomings. Today Christ tells us all: “I am the resurrection.” We might be like dry bones at the moment, stripped of flesh, but we need to know that God will put his spirit in us and we shall live. Dear friends, let us pray for the spirit of the Lord to come and fill our world. Let us take to heart the three elements of Prayer enumerated by Pope Francis; Faith, perseverance, and courage. Let us, therefore, pray with faith, with perseverance, and with courage. Let us not allow the situation to tarnish our faith and our hope in the living God for he is the Lord of life.