March 22, 2023
by Jay Carney
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 246

Isaiah 49:8-15
Psalm 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18
John 5:17-30

Praying Lent Home



“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.”

The Nigerian Jesuit Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator once defined theology as “faith seeking understanding, love, and hope.” Today’s readings really bring home that last element, namely the importance of hope in the midst of darkness, suffering, and death. They also offer deeper insight into the paschal mystery – the Christocentric pattern of life, suffering, death, and resurrection – that lies at the heart of the gospel, as well as these holy seasons of Lent and Easter.

Isaiah 49’s vivid, visceral prophecy exemplifies this pattern. The “day of salvation” arrives in the midst of tremendous deprivation. Prisoners emerge from their cells. Barren land is now fit for pasturing, with springs of water bubbling over. The famished have their fill; thirst is quenched; the brutal sun and scorching desert wind give way to a land shouting and singing for joy. And yet near the end of the reading, Israel’s lament lingers in my mind, as it reminds me that Isaiah’s prophecy is very much one of hope rather than fulfillment: “But Zion said, the Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”

John’s gospel today offers a response to this lament, reminding us that God does not forget the righteous. Reflecting his intimate relationship with God the Father, Christ the Son’s life-giving work of liberation extends even to the dead in their tombs, who like Lazarus will “come out” at the beckoning of the Risen Christ.

Lent itself is a season of purgation, fasting, and putting to death that which keeps us from embracing the abundant life that God freely offers in Jesus Christ. Thankfully, we are not yet in our literal tombs. But in some way, all of us are being called from death to life during this Lenten season. With two weeks remaining until the Holy Triduum, what am I being called to cast off? What new life is Jesus offering me?

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