SUNDAY, FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Ez 37: 12-14; Ps 130: 1-8; Rom 8: 8-11; Jn 11: 1-45
JESUS IS THE AUTHOR OF LIFE AND DEATH
The first reading and the Gospel mention the event of raising the dead from the graves. In the first reading, we read about God opening the graves and breathing life into the dead bones. In the gospel, Jesus brings the dead Lazarus to life.
The background of the first reading is the effect of the Israelites being exiled by the Babylonians. Life in exile was a life of deprivation. They had no king, no land, and no temple. The hopes of returning were remote. The spiritual life of the people was going to bad to worse. The Israelites had forgotten their religious practices and adopted the pagan lifestyle. Thus, God gives a vision to the prophet Ezekiel. In the vision, Ezekiel saw a valley filled with human bones scattered all over. God put a question to Ezekiel “Can these bones live?” (Ez 37:3). The practical answer would be ‘No’, But Ezekiel replied: “O Lord God, You Know” (Ez 37:3). In a drop of a hat, an astonishing thing happened. The bones clattered against each other, finding their match and took on sinews and flesh. At last, God breathed on these bodies and they came to life again.
The implication of this vision is, the dry bones are the Israelites who were complaining in exile. “Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost we are clean cut off” God said: “I will open your graves and raise you from your graves” (Ez 37:12). God consoles the Israelites and promises that he will give them real life once more. It was the teaching to the prophet Ezekiel that what no human was able to perform, God could make those things possible. The Israelites could return to their land and once again be a free nation. This was possible only with God.
In the Gospel, Jesus brought the dead Lazarus to life. He wanted Martha, and all who gathered, to know that Lazarus could rise again through his intervention. By performing this miracle, Jesus indicated that he is God. According to the Jews, only God could raise a dead person and it is clear in the first reading. Jesus has not only the authority over death but also has the power to grant eternal life. We observe this in Jesus’ words to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this”.She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world?” (Jn 11:25-27) Martha acknowledged Jesus is the son of God and has power in heaven and on earth. Those who believe in Jesus, though they be dead physically, they live spiritually.
St. Paul in the second reading tells us: “But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:10-11).
Resurrection is the turning point and basis of our Christian faith. All the Gospels and the entire New Testament is the product of the resurrection experience of Jesus Christ. St Paul affirms that, “if Christ had not risen from the dead then everything would be futile” (1 Cor 15:17). All our doings of preaching and prayer gain meaning only if we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and conversely our own resurrection. Is there a resurrection? Do we rise after our death? These are some of the eschatological questions raised by many. To this, the ‘resurrection of Jesus’ becomes the answer to clear our doubts in matters of faith.
We who live and die in Christ will rise in Christ. Jesus’ resurrection was not for the resumption of his earthly life. In his resurrection, he was lifted up and glorified (Jn 12:32), sitting enthroned at the right hand of the Father forever (Heb 10:12). Our resurrection will not be like that of Lazarus but like Jesus’ resurrection. As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection with faith and joy that is unexplainable, let us also be witnesses of hope in the resurrection.
Response: With the Lord there is mercy, in him is plentiful redemption.
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