5th Sunday of Lent: March 26, 2023
Readings: Ezekiel 37:12–14; Psalm 130:1–8; Romans 8:8–11; John 11:1–45
|Jesus raises Lazarus from the tomb|
|To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here:https://youtu.be/IfApsZlYZFE|
We are inching closer to the Holy Week, where we recall Christ's passion, suffering, death, and resurrection. The fifth Sunday of Lent reminds us of the promise of new life. Even in the face of death, there is hope for new beginnings. As we approach Easter, we are reminded that we too can experience new life, both in this world and in the next. The liturgical readings of this Sunday lead us to deeper reflection on the meaning of sacrifice, surrender, forgiveness, and new life. It is a time to draw closer to God, and to allow his love and grace to transform us from the inside out.
1. Amazing testimony of God's presence in Jesus
The story of Lazarus' resurrection in John 11:1-45 is a powerful example of God's ability to bring life out of death. As we reflect on this story, we can draw several spiritual insights that are relevant to our lives today:
a. The power of prayer: In this story, Jesus responds to the urgent prayer of Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha. They had faith that Jesus could heal their brother. However, Jesus wanted to bring novelty into their lives and allows himself to be called for a greater sign of wonder. Jesus responds to their faith by raising Lazarus from the dead. It is indeed a sign of the importance of prayer in our own lives. When we pray with faith and sincerity, we open ourselves up to God's grace and power.
b. The reality of grief: Lazarus' death was a source of deep grief for his sisters and the community. Jesus himself was moved to tears by their pain. This, in fact, tells us that grief is a natural and necessary part of the human experience. When we experience loss and pain, we can turn to Jesus, who understands our pain and offers comfort and hope. Pope Francis says “certain realities in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears. The tears of Jesus teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations.”
c. The power of belief: Throughout this story of raising Lazarus from the tomb, Jesus emphasizes the importance of belief. He tells Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (John 11:25). This reminds us that our belief in Jesus is essential for experiencing the fullness of life that he offers. When we believe in him and trust in his power, we can experience new life and hope.
d. The call to serve: After Lazarus is raised from the dead, Jesus commands the community to unbind him and let him go. What does it mean to us? This tells us that we are called to serve others and to help them experience the freedom and new life that Jesus offers. When we use our gifts and talents to serve others, we participate in the work of resurrection and renewal.
Overall, the story of Lazarus' resurrection is a powerful reminder of God's power to bring life out of death. It challenges us to deepen our faith in Jesus, to trust in his power, and to use our lives to serve others and bring hope and healing to the world.
2. The accompaniment of the Holy Spirit in our lives
St Paul gives us a rich theology of the Holy Spirit. No other writer in the whole of the Bible has written so much on the Holy Spirit as St Paul. In Romans 8:8-11, St Paul writes about the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Perhaps, we can delve deeper into this passage here.
a. The power of the Spirit to transform: St Paul emphasizes that those who are in the flesh cannot please God, but those who are in the Spirit can live in accordance with God's will. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us from the inside out. When we open ourselves up to the Spirit's work in our lives, we can experience deep transformation and growth.
b. The promise of new life: St Paul writes that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies. Moreover, Spirit offers us the promise of new life, not only in the next life but also in this one. When we surrender to the Spirit's work in our lives, we can experience a new sense of vitality, purpose, and joy.
c. The importance of surrender: St Paul emphasizes that those who live according to the flesh are hostile to God, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. This reminds us that surrender is essential for experiencing the transformative power of the Spirit. When we let go of our own desires and agendas and surrender to the Spirit's leading, we can live in accordance with God's will and experience his love and grace.
d. The gift of belonging: St Paul writes that those who have the Spirit of Christ belong to him. This reminds us that the Spirit is a gift of belonging, a sign of our adoption into God's family. When we have the Spirit, we have the assurance that we are loved, accepted, and valued by God.
Overall, Romans 8:8-11 is a powerful reminder of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. It challenges us to surrender to the Spirit's work in our lives, to trust in the promise of new life, and to live in accordance with God's will. Perhaps, it is time for us to trust in God and ourselves. The Spirit of the Lord always accompanies us. Often it is because of our carelessness and not being ready to embrace the power of God in our lives, we get into depression, desolation, anxiety, fear and loss. When we trust in the Lord deeply, He can move mountains. Often instead of owning God and His Spirit in our lives, we end up trusting in Satan and the powers of evil. Let this Sunday of Lent help us to reckon to get back to our roots to the God of love, compassion, courage, strength, perseverance, faith, perspective, and life.
Questions for self-reflection:
- How do I respond to loss and grief? Do I turn to Jesus in prayer and trust that he can bring hope and healing?
- Do I believe that Jesus has the power to bring new life out of death? How can I deepen my faith and trust in him?
- Am I open to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in my life? How can I surrender more fully to the Spirit's work?
- How do I use my gifts and talents to serve others and bring hope and healing to the world? How can I be more intentional about participating in the work of resurrection and renewal?
As we reflect on these questions, we can deepen our relationship with God and grow in our faith and trust in him.
Prayer: (based on Psalm 130)
From the depths of our souls, we cry out to you, our hope and our salvation. Hear our voices and be attentive to our prayers. Forgive us for the times we have fallen short, and lead us in the path of righteousness. We wait patiently for you, knowing that in you alone can we find redemption and grace. May our hearts be steadfast in your love, and may we always seek your face. We put our hope in you, and trust in your unfailing love and mercy.
Lord, we long for your presence, and we wait for your deliverance. May your Spirit fill us with peace, and may your light shine upon us always. We praise you, O God, for you are our refuge and our strength. You are our rock and our fortress, and in you we find true peace and rest. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
24 March 2023