April 2, 2017
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center of Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 34

Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45

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The Prophet Ezekiel is transported to a bone-yard of sorts. The voice of the Lord tells the prophet to call these bones back to sinews and flesh. He does so and shaking, rattling and rising begin to occur. This is not a bad day’s work for the prophet.

He is told that the bones are the people of Israel in exile which has been a death. These reborns will take their place in their true land. What seemed to be dead was really asleep and the warm breath of God has awakened their spirits.

This is the third and final week of the “Scrutinies” for those soon to enter into the Catholic Church. Jesus has been presented to them in the two previous liturgies as “Living Water” and “Light of the World”. Today Jesus is presented as the “Resurrection”. Next weekend we will celebrate Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week. Those seeking an entrance into the Catholic church and all other believers are invited to ponder their following of Jesus through His death to our resurrection.

Those who decide to follow Jesus will have to live the challenges from all sides. There will be invitations to reconsider and follow other forms of living. Snow-like coverings will attempt to freeze out what is always growing in the believers and that is faith. Those deciding to follow Jesus can not take the Jerusalem by-pass and meet up at the Resurrectional reunion.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples agree reluctantly to go with Jesus back to Judea where the Jews had been planning recently to kill Jesus. “Might as well go with him,” they decide. His friend Lazarus has been reported to be sick and Jesus delays going to visit him and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.

As with the Gospel stories of the past two weeks, there is a literary or dramatic tension created for the single purpose of Jesus revealing God’s glory. The writer of the Gospel creates or reveals a situation where Jesus will be able to call his listeners, (watchers) to a decision of belief. In last-week’s story, being healed from blindness was really about believing as seeing. This-week’s Gospel intensifies the theme. Lazarus was in the tomb and smelled like it. Jesus brings him back to life, but for John’s Gospel, believing is what living is. As the man who was born blind was a symbol or type of all human’s being blind to the presence of God in Christ, so Lazarus is a symbol of humanity’s being called out of eternal “not-living” and into the light of faith.

Jesus was seen to love this Lazarus, this symbol of us all. Jesus ordered that Lazarus, we, be untied and set to go free. Freedom for John’s Jesus is seeing and living out the relationship which Jesus has been “sent” to offer us. “Now many of the Jews who had come out to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.” They, as with Lazarus, are brought out of their tombs of death, which for John, is unbelief, just as with those who said they could see, were, for John’s Jesus, blind.

When a person is blind, she or he cannot do all the things they would like to be able to do. When one is dead, the things of life are denied them. There are many forms of death and of blindness for us. As Light, Jesus does not say that everything will be clear as day. As Resurrection, Jesus does not take away all forms of death and confinement, but keeps calling us to “Come out and play.” The evening before I pronounced my vows in the Jesuits, I was praying in the chapel and I was trying to be honest about my fears of doing this. What I came to was my simple words, “Jesus, I will follow you, but just don’t hurt me, okay?” Being a believer is not an easy way out. Lazarus got his “wake-up call” to come back into the human experience for a while. Jesus is Himself, heading for a big hurt in Jerusalem. Those who believe do so despite their desires to avoid the hurts of being human.

Jesus does offer Himself as The Resurrection and after our praying for faith, we will be invited by the liturgy and our living out our belief, to follow Him where ever our human pains of hurt and loss take us. He promises to be with us and breathing new life back into our personal “Bonehouse”.

“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” Ps. 130

This reflection is from the archives, from 2005.

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