Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A, March 13, 2016
Readings: EZ 37:12-14; PS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; ROM 8:8-11; JN 11:1-45
Where does Jesus fit into you life? Is Jesus a priority and you know Him? Or is Jesus not so important, and you only know of him?
In all of today’s readings, we hear about death.
In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is reminding the Jewish people of God’s promise. The Jewish people had been captured and taken to Babylon. The Temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed. The Jewish people were experiencing a form of death. The way they knew to communicate to God was gone. God appeared to have abandoned them, perhaps in part because the Jewish people repeatedly failed to hear and follow God’s teachings. And despite their failure, in this reading we hear God would restore them, he would open their graves and return them to the land of Israel. By restoring them, it would show the Jewish people, and all the nations, that their God is a God who fulfills his promises.
In the second reading, Paul writes about those “in the flesh” and those “in the spirit.” When he is talking about those in the flesh, he means those who do not know Jesus. He is basically saying they are dead. But those in the spirit, are those who know Jesus, and says even if they physically die, they will continue to live because the divine life never ends.
In the Gospel reading we hear about Lazarus’ death. We hear he had been dead four days. That is an important point because there was a Jewish belief the spirit left the body after three days, hence Lazarus is “fully” dead. And yet, Jesus is able to bring him back to life. This shows Jesus really is God, and God’s life-giving love can overcome death itself.
Somewhat recently, I was speaking to a member of this parish, and we were talking about dying and death. They told me a story about the death of their in-law, who didn’t have a strong belief in Jesus. As that in-law was nearing death, and struggling, when offered to get a minister or someone to pray with them, it was refused. To me, this sounded like a difficult death. There was great fear in dying, there was no peace.
Contrast this with my own Mom’s death. The hospital staff had arranged for a Mass to be said in her room. As we approached to receive the Eucharist, Mom took her last breath. The last thing most of us said to her while she was still alive was “Peace be with you.” Her death was a peaceful death. There was even a sense of joy because she had completed her journey here on earth. There was nothing more for her to do but to trust in God’s promise of eternal life.
Mom had a strong faith life. Her parents passed their faith on to her. She and Dad passed their faith onto me and my brothers and sisters. It was because of her faith, I believe, she experienced what I would call a good death.
Knowing Jesus is a part of our faith. We need Jesus in all aspects of our lives. This includes in marriage. Marriage is not about a man and a woman. It is about a husband, a wife and God. With God as a part of marriage, I believe the marriage is stronger, will be more joyful, more peaceful, and the couple will experience more happiness. It allows each spouse to die to oneself, and put the other spouse ahead of their own self. This is what Jesus did for us. It is what God expects of all married couples. A strong marriage with God as the most important part of the marriage, will allow that couple to demonstrate how God loves each of us.
We all need help from time to time in our relationship with Jesus. In Luke 10:38, we hear another passage about Mary and Martha. There Mary is seated at the feet of Jesus getting to know him. Martha is in the kitchen doing all the work. In that passage, because of Mary’s actions, she brought Martha closer to Jesus. But in today’s gospel reading, it is Martha who invites Mary to come to Jesus.
This leads to my challenges to you.
First, during these last two weeks before Easter, continue to get to know Jesus better by frequent conversations with him. While formal prayers like the Liturgy of the Hours, Magnificat, the Rosary and many other beautiful prayers available to us, can help us to talk with Jesus, sometimes we need to do something different. Take some time every day during these next two weeks and spend it in conversation with Jesus. Find a quiet place and just talk to him, share your day with him, what was good, and what was not so good. And take some time to sit in silence to see what Jesus shares with you. It might come as a passing thought, a voice your hear, or an image he shares with you.
Second, during your daily prayer time, reflect on your own life, focusing on those times when either you did something out of the ordinary or experienced something different. At the time it might not have meant anything, but now, when reflecting on it, you may discover it was really an encounter with Jesus. It was something God wanted for you as it would have an impact on your life in some way. But don’t keep this experience with Jesus, this gift from God, to yourself. Share this experience with someone. It might be your spouse or some other family member, you might also share the experience with a classmate, co-worker or neighbor. And please share it with another parishioner. And ask them to share an encounter they had with Jesus, with you. By sharing our experiences with each other, it will help all of us to get to know Jesus better.
Taking the time to get to know Jesus better, it will help prepare us for those times in our life that are difficult, when death occurs in some way in our life. And by getting to know Jesus more and more each day, by learning to listen to Jesus voice, we will find more peace, more joy, more happiness in our life. And we will be able to respond to Jesus when he calls us to “come out”.