Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Lent - April 10, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Mystery of Our Redemption (Part III)
"I Will Open Your Graves"
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die."
The power of death is real; the wages of sin is death. Christ came into our world of sin and death. And more to the point, Christ came to make alive all of us who were dead through trespasses and sins.
Once the prince of the power of the air reigned in us - the spirit that is still at work in the children of disobedience. In St. Paul's understanding, disobedience is equal to sin; it is the reality of death, a life in the flesh that cannot please God. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. And then Paul states, "By grace you have been saved." (see Ephesians 2:1-5)
Lent is a season of grace. For those coming into the Church, the elect who are preparing for baptism, are reminded today of the newness of life in Christ. And for all of us, this is a season of grace, as we do some soul searching and avail ourselves of the grace that is ours through confession.
Dripping from the words of today's gospel is compassion and grace and life more abundantly. The story of the raising of Lazarus gives us the promise of our resurrection at the last day. But it also reminds us that Jesus, the strong Son of God, first redeems us, he opens up our graves of sin and calls us forth and set us free from the power of sin and death. Greater than the power of sin is grace; grace that is greater than all of our sin. The life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. (see Galatians 2:20) Bow your head and say these words: Jesus loved ME and gave himself for ME. If you had been the only person in the world, Jesus would have died for you; such is the love of God for you and me.
It is this forgiving love we take into our world of family and work. If our face and words are immersed in this holy love, then a new springtime of faith will bloom. We touch in personal ways our families and coworkers and our communities of faith. We can do so with the great goodness of God; letting them see in your eyes and actions the faith you have in the Son of God. And pray for ways to share Christ's great love for each one. There is no face of Jesus without your face. There is no voice of Jesus outside of your voice. There is no loving embrace of Jesus unless it is you who is doing the hugging.
During the remarkable Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, he reminded us how near the culture of death is to us. Its tentacles reach into every nook and cranny of human experience. It sucks the life from relationships, attacking especially those whom God has joined together. It skews the good and beautiful and true. It makes its victims blind to what has always been and distrustful of what is firm and lasting. Life is a black hole for these living dead in whom is constant emptiness and numbness and unrelieved separation within. And its last insult is to make profane the sacredness of life in the womb and in the aged and infirm.
Before the tomb of our culture Christ pauses, he weeps. It is not a sign of weakness. It is an expression of a holy anger - perturbed and troubled over the desolation of human and spiritual destruction. The word in the gospel for becoming 'perturbed' at Lazarus' tomb is a curious phrase in Greek, literally meaning 'he snorted in spirit.' Deeply moved within his spirit at the presence of unbelief and death, Jesus prayed. He prayed that those with him at the tomb of Lazarus would come to believe that he is the resurrection and the life.
Anyone today held in sin's dread sway, Christ comes and takes from your captor the keys of hell and death. And with a loud voice, the captain of our salvation cries out, "COME FORTH!"
Thus says the Lord GOD: Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them. O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live. Amen.