5th Sunday of Lent A
April 2, 2017
Our readings present some very powerful images. The first reading that we have today is from Ez 37: 12-14 but it is important to know what precedes these verses, and there is an image of dead bones. An image that has no life, that seems to have all hope gone. By the request of the Lord, Ezekiel is told to prophesy over the dead bones. So, by God's request, that which seems dead, has no life, lacks relationship with God and others is given new life by the Lord's request.
So, this reading came at the time of Babylonian Exile. The Jews were exiled from their homeland, and some wandered away from the faith, they gave up on God and fell into pagan practices and the worship of foreign Gods. Essentially, they abandoned the covenant. God sees the incredible potential to breathe new life into them and renew this covenant which we here about today.
In the second reading, Paul is writing to the Romans reminding them that the body which is dead because of sin will have new life. The Spirit of God himself will come into them.
the Gospel is one of my favorites. Jesus was friends with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. So, Jesus is a few days journey away from the village where they live but word comes to him that Lazarus has died. So, Jesus is moved on two levels: 1) a very personal level as it is noted by the bystanders that "see how he loved Lazarus,” 2)the other level is that he desires to raise Lazarus so the power of God will be revealed.
So, as we are in our Lenten journey, we are called to do two things: 1) to be transformed as we encounter Christ and he gives us new life 2) to be a disciple, a follower of Christ, so that we can lead others to him.
So, let us journey with Christ to the tomb of Lazarus. The tomb represents that which is dead within us. It represents those areas of our life where we are blinded by sinfulness. It represents that place where we have buried, anger, hatred, revenge or maybe wounds or even horrific abuses that may have been caused to us by another. Sometimes we want to bury our problems there, and the rock that covers the tomb can be our unwillingness to face these challenges because of the potential pain to face them, so we cover them with distractions. These distractions can come in many forms: being consumed with just about anything to the point of obsession, we can be consumed with over eating, drinking too much, turning toward narcotic substances, or indulging in computer world or television.
So, we come to the tomb with Jesus. Listen to Jesus! He commands that the stone be rolled back. There is fear of a stench or something that might be unpleasant. He is not worried. By the very words of Christ, he commands, "Lazarus come forth." He calls our name, our name which was pronounced in our baptism, to come forth from all this darkness. Then he commands the friends of Lazarus to untie him.
So, we must let others help us when we are in need. We must let others untie that which binds us up and keeps us in the darkness where we see no hope or light. We have just heard the voice of Christ, we have just encountered his embrace. We have just met his friends, his disciples. Likewise, we as disciples are called to be those friends of Jesus to untie others who are so bound up.
This is so powerful! This becomes a prefigurement of the power of the risen Christ. As the blind man was healed in the Gospel from last weekend, so Lazarus is raised that the power of God be made visible.
Friends in Christ! Jesus wants our body, mind and soul, created to be a unity to be healed and be at peace. He wants to consume our entire person! He wants us to see that our identity is defined by our relationship with him.
So, the image that Ezekiel saw is an image without life, it is an image of a people who no longer accepted a relationship with a living, loving and forgiving God. They wandered off to do their own thing, and had no life.
Today, your presence here is your willingness to come to Christ. You have come here! He meets you at the tomb, so any darkness that is here give it to him on this altar. Also, run to confession. Pour out your heart to him, and allow the Risen Christ to heal you and call you forth to be unbound. I urge you to go to confession before Easter. I have witnessed countless miracles in the confession, and watched people walk out as if a giant stone was lifted from their shoulders. This is the Risen Christ who desires freedom and peace for you.
Thanks for your yes to Christ! Go forth as his disciples and lead others to the presence of Christ so they can hear him call, "come forth"! "Untie him or her"! Be free!