FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)
Ezekiel 37:12-14 | Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 | Romans 8:8-11 | John 11:1-45
As our Lenten journey reaches a crescendo, we are all summoned to focus on the theme of death yielding to a new life. Today, Jesus is given to us as one who not only heals the sick and sustains life, but as one who restores lost life.
On May 25, 2017, during the Siege of Marawi, a woman by the name of Sandra Cruz received the worst call of her life. Her son, Samuel Cruz, Private First Class, had stood on a live grenade and was dead. For the next three days she grieved. No one could comfort her. On the third day after receiving the terrible news, the phone rang. On the other end of the phone there was a voice that said, “Mama, it’s me. I’m alive.” At first Sandra thought it was a cruel joke, but as the conversation continued, she realized it was her son. Later she said she laughed and cried and rejoiced because what seemed to be a hopeless situation turned out to be the greatest day of her life. That’s what news from a graveyard can do for you when you hope in the Lord.
In the first reading, Prophet Ezekiel reminds the people who are in exile that even though it seems like they have no life, God promises to breathe the divine life back into them and raise them to new life. Israel’s return from exile will be like resurrection from the grave. The dry bones are the exiles in Babylon, who have no more hope of resuscitating the kingdom of Judah like humanity is doing now given the scourge of Corona Virus. Just before the Israelites lose all hope, God’s prophet encourages them to hang on, for better days lay ahead where God will open the graves and restore the people of Israel.
Edgardo, his wife Abegail and his mother-in-law Cynthia went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While they were visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus tomb, Cynthia became so overwhelmed by the beauty of the holy garden, suffered a heart attack and died instantly. With the death certificate in hand Edgardo went to the Philippine Embassy to make arrangements to send the body back to Manila for proper burial. The Consul, after hearing of the death of the mother-in-law, told Edgardo, "My friend, the sending of the body back to the Philippines for burial is very, very expensive. It could cost as much as ₱260,000." He continued, ""In most of these cases, the person responsible for the remains normally decides to bury the body here. This would only cost ₱7,800." Edgardo thinks for some time and answers the Consul, "I don't care how much it will cost to send the body back. That's what I want to do." The Consul after hearing this says, "Your mother-in-law must have been very dear to you that you're willing to spend for her burial." "No, it's not that," says Edgardo. "You see, I read of a case many years ago of a person buried here in Jerusalem, and on the third day he was resurrected. I just can't take that risk."
Our second reading continues the theme of resurrection from the dead. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul assures the early Roman Christians, who were facing death by persecution, and us, who are surrounded by a culture of death, that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and who dwells within us will raise our mortal bodies to life on the last day. When a seed is planted, it seems to die but it grows up into a beautiful new plant. When Jesus died for us, he was buried, but he rose again in a more wonderful body. Believers in Jesus will have new bodies like his when they rise from death.
Walter, a young man who works for a BPO, came to Mickey, his team lead and asked for the day off to attend his grandmother's funeral. Mickey said, “Sure.” The next day Walter was talking to Mickey. His team lead said, “Do you believe in resurrection from the dead?” Walter said, “Yes.”
"Interesting, because after you left work yesterday, your grandmother came to visit you!”
The Gospel is the account of the Raising of Lazarus. He now lays four days in the grave. As his sister, Martha, said, "By now there will be a stench." The Israelites did not embalm their dead and in that climate, the body decomposed rapidly. The smell is sickening. The high point of the story is the great pronouncement of verses 25-26. There is encouragement here as Jesus proclaims that He is the Resurrection and the Life and that those who believe in Him will have life even if they die. Faith is the key. When we believe in Christ, even though we surely die, we shall be raised again to life through Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection – eternal life!
In two weeks, the Church will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Let’s remember to keep praying for all the people and for our world, for new life in Jesus:
Dear God, there is nothing impossible for you. When our hope is fading away, speak into our situation. Increase our faith and give us new life in your Son. Heal the victims of Corona Virus, protect those exposed to the pandemic and grant eternal rest to those who have died. We pray this through Jesus, our Resurrection and Life. Amen. <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum