Friday, March 20, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B: Option A

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

Life and death; hope and despair are the key words that sum up the message of this Sunday. All three readings this Sunday lead us to meet Jesus who is the resurrection and the life. It is around this central theme, that the Church celebrates the third Scrutiny with those preparing for the Easter Sacraments. In the prayer over the candidates this Sunday, the presider says these words: "Free from the grasp of death those who await your life-giving sacraments, and deliver them from the spirit of corruption." The readings provide a sharp contrast between life and death; hope and despair. They also remind us of real life experiences of the destructive forces of death in real families. We are reminded of the pain of death faced by millions of people every day all over the world. The prophet Ezekiel in the first reading urges the devastated nation of Israel to look beyond the destruction of Jerusalem to a new future, when God’s Spirit will restore Israel. If you are facing grief or strife in the family, there is good news for you. The prophet Ezekiel prophesies hope for those who believe in the God of life. You and I have many times encountered the shattering effects of death in the family as I did just one year before my ordination to priesthood, when I suddenly lost my dad in a tragic highway accident in which 3 others died with him in 1966.

In the perspective of stewardship, the episode of the raising of Lazarus to life offers three challenges. The first challenge is the grace of initiative to respond to God’s grace. At times when we are spiritually dead, we need someone to roll away the stone that blocks the door of faith and trust, so that we can begin to be alive again and breathe the fresh air of God’s grace. Indeed we are our sister’s and brother’s keepers; we are stewards of our brothers and sisters. It is a sin of omission to see your brother or sister spiritually dead (in a state of sin) and choose to do nothing. Rolling away the stone that keeps such persons in the tomb is bold evangelization – the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic. The second challenge is listening to God calling us and inviting us to come out of the tomb. Some people just prefer to remain in their sleep. We need to wake up. Anthony DeMelo sums up this point beautifully. “Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up!” Responding to the voice of Jesus calling us to come out of our tombs leads us to be the best version of ourselves and become God’s instruments of transforming others by waking them up from their slumber of sloth to life again. “Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.” (Matthew Kelly) The third challenge is the imperative of “untying and letting others go!” This is a powerful image of stewardship. Being raised from the dead; from our spiritual slumber is not enough. Imagine if someone had not challenged us to wake up from our spiritual slumber! We would still be lying there in the burial clothes around our body unable to untie ourselves. We need stewards, who care about us; who clean our wounds, bandage them and care for us until we recover from the shock of being robbed of God’s grace, beaten up and left on the roadside to die! The message of this Sunday may be summed up in a few points. 1) Stewardship challenges us to roll the stone away for someone this week; 2) It also challenges us to help others hear the voice of Jesus calling; 3) It further challenges us to help to untie those still in bondage by sharing with them the best way to live so they can be free and be the best version of themselves.  That is evangelization, the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic. Be bold, be Catholic, be a dynamic Catholic!  

©2015 John S. Mbinda

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