The Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ez 37:12-14; Ps 130; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45

As we approach the climax of the Church’s liturgical year, which is the celebration of the life, Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, also called the Paschal Mystery, the Scriptural readings on this Fifth Sunday of Lent set before us the theme of death and new life from different perspectives.

While we are familiar with the physical death of the body, so dramatically depicted in the Gospel account of the Lord’s raising of Lazarus from the tomb, Scripture teaches that there is another kind of death, a spiritual death, which threatens the believer and which so preoccupied the Apostle Paul. It is a struggle in which we are all involved. This fight has been likened to a battleground where the spirit and the flesh are engaged in constant conflict.

The exilic prophet Ezekiel offered the encouragement of a new beginning to the displaced people of Israel. They would indeed return from their enforced exile in Babylon and resume life in their homeland. Ezekiel wonderfully describes this homecoming as a resurrection from the dead. Almighty God’s infinite power would ensure that his people would ultimately triumph over this spiritual captivity and death in an alien land. By means of such striking language and the vision it presents, centuries before the coming of Christ, we can see how God gradually instructs and prepares his people for Christ’s victory over suffering and death, and his resurrection to a new and indestructible life on Easter Day.

John the Evangelist devotes an extended chapter to the raising of Lazarus. The story is dramatic and carefully crafted. Jesus was a personal friend to the family of Lazarus and had a deep affection for them, but now death had cast its long shadow and left the sisters, Martha and Mary, desolate and grief-stricken.

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