Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A: Reflections by Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Eze 37:12-14; Ps 130:1-8; Rom 8:8-11 and John 11:1-45
Christ, the Giver of Life
Our liturgy of today, the fifth Sunday of Lent marks the end of the Lenten Season. It introduces us, by next week into Passion Sunday and the most Sacred Week during which the Church invites us to contemplate the victorious and glorious meaning of Christ’s, arrest, his trial, his crucifixion and death. The more reason, scripturally today emphasis is on Christ the giver of life. He gives us life when we are death in hope, when we are left in despair. He revitalizes our faith when confronted with faithlessness, spirit dampening and frustrating circumstances in life.
We can draw many examples ourselves, but a typical biblical example might have been the life situation of the exiled and displaced Israelites. Their faith and hope must have been in great danger but not for the metaphorical and encouraging words of restoration by Ezekiel, the prophet of exile. In their difficulties which were like being dead in the grave, Ezekiel said to them: “”thus says the Lord God; O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 37:12-14).
We see this life giving and faith restoring Lord always in Johannine ironic Jesus. We see this in his turning water into wine, in his healing ministries, in his fearless preaching, authoritative teaching, moral ascendency; in his multiplication of bread and in his last and seventh miracle/ signs of raising Lazarus from the death, demonstrating his sovereignty over life and death, God’s glory and how much he has always loved us till the end, even though he knew this would lead to some “Jewish leaders’” plot to kill him (John 11:45-53), come this Holy Week.
The most important lesson for us in this in this story is to imitate Mary and Martha. Initially they wept over Lazarus helplessness. Their spirit was down. They were also frustrated because it took Jesus two days to respond to the illness of Lazarus. Truly God’s ways are not our ways. God knows and works by his “hours” and time. He knows when to change water into wine. He knows when to heal the royal official son. God has his own clock and watch different from ours. This is the hour of the cross. The hour of the Cross is the hour of the Father’s true glory, the hour of Jesus’ true glory.
Like Martha in our moments of frustrations and hardships we might be saying, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Of course, “Lazarus their brother will rise and live.” Like Martha and Mary after our doubts and frustration we want to return to that faith which holds that Jesus is the life and the resurrection, and those who believe even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in Christ will never die (John 11:25-26). The coming out of Lazarus from the grave teaches Martha and all of us that eternal life conquers death but does not abolish physical death. Remember Lazarus was human and would have to die again.
During this coming Holy week we shall be presented by stories of the the arrest, the trial, the mockery, the insult, the crucifixion of our Lord. Just like the dead of Lazarus, they are not fairy tales. They are real faith stories, but are never the end, but ironies of human incomprehensibility of God. The resurrection of Christ will definitely defeat his passion. What was lost in exile shall be restored. Let us pray at this Mass that, the Spirit of one who raised Jesus and Lazarus from the death may accompany us daily (Rom 8:8-11) in our faith pilgrimage. And may we always imitate Mary’s and Martha’s faith in Christ the Giver of Life Eternal, by the way we respond seemingly life’ crises including, illness and the loss of our loved ones.