Fifth Week of Lent
The Fifth Sunday of Lent brings us closer toward the
Passion and death of Jesus. This is the third and final week of Scrutinies
in our parishes for those in the RCIA program. In John's Gospel,
we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus is not there when
his dear friend, Lazarus dies, but after meeting with Lazarus' grief-stricken
sisters and himself weeping, he stands at the door of the tomb. "Lazarus,
come out!" Jesus commands. The man who had been dead came out.
His hands and feet were wrapped with strips of burial cloth, and a
cloth covered his face. Jesus then
told the people, "Untie him and let him go."
first readings prepare for the gospels. We begin with the long, but
well worth reading, story of Susanna, who trusted in God. The bronze
serpent on a pole reminds us of Jesus's saving cross. Three young
men refuse to commit idolatry and show us how God protects "the
servants who trusted in him." God entered a covenant with Abraham.
In the midst of his persecution, Jeremiah praises God, "For he
has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!"
gospels are again from the Fourth Gospel. Presented
with a woman caught in adultery, Jesus replies, “Let the one
among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Reminding us of the bronze serpent and his death, Jesus says, “When
you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM."
To the children of Abraham and to us Jesus declares, “If you
remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will know
the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “Whoever
keeps my word will never see death. ... Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.” They heard what they thought
was blasphemy and tried to stone him. Jesus simply told the truth,
because, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
After the raising of Lazarus, the plans were set to destroy Jesus.
The high priest says the prophetic words, “it is better for
you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole
nation may not perish.”
On Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord we make our
way into Holy Week. We read the gospel about Jesus'
entry into Jerusalem, Paul's invitation to us to imitate Jesus who
emptied himself, and the whole Passion, this year
from Matthew's Gospel.
Prayer This Week
is the last full week of Lent. We can feel the conflict and struggle
developing in the readings. As we read about the drama that surrounded
Jesus' last days on earth and reflect upon its meaning, we experience
how the drama that is going in our own hearts is more intense the closer
we get to the end of Lent. The Spirit of the Lord is really trying to
help us be more open and more free, to receive the graces our Lord wants
to offer us. There is another spirit that is fighting just as hard to
distract us, discourage us, and prevent us from being open and attentive
to God's gifts. The closer we get to the mystery of our Lord's passion,
death and resurrection for us, the more we can experience struggle.
I experience myself somewhat "at war" with myself, then these
are very important days to keep deliberately asking our Lord to help
me. It is also a great time to begin to prepare to renew the baptismal
promises at Easter. We can reject the unloving choices we've made, all
that is unjust, dishonest, disrespectful and violent. We want to refuse
to be mastered by an empty promises. Declaring our desire for freedom
is a great preparation to receive this great gift. If we are celebrating
the Scrutinies with the RCIA candidates and catechumens, this is a wonderful
time to pray for them as well, for their protection from the evil one
in the last days of their journey.
If we have developed the habit of naming a desire the first thing each
morning, and carrying on a conversation with our Lord in the brief background
moments of the day, we are already comfortable with letting the Word
or the Season interact with the concrete events of the week. This way
of finding intimacy with our Lord, through our daily interaction - even
in a very busy life - is so appropriate for the Fifth Week of Lent.
We can discover areas that are still resistant to God's grace. We can
ask for help to practice new ways of being free, or new ways of loving.
We can find ways to make financial sacrifices to give to the poor this
night this week, we can give thanks. The closer we get to celebrating
Holy Week and the events that brought us our salvation, each of us can
express our gratitude, realizing this was all for me.