Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Lent - April 6, 2014 - Year A
The Spirit of Christ
But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. - Romans 8:9
In the story of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, we observe a deep and reciprocal friendship. John is careful to tell us that Mary's gratefulness to Jesus was once demonstrated in the form of pouring oil upon the feet of Jesus and wiping them dry with her hair. One feels very quickly these folks are profoundly in love with Jesus; the One who found them and brought them into his infinite love.
There is no greater joy than knowing and belonging to Christ. This is the fundamental reality of being a Christian. As the beloved Apostle Paul wrote, who spoke much about union with Christ, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That is the mystery of the miracle of being touched by the Spirit of Christ. In Christ we discover a living love; a love that is alive with the power of an endless life. (Hebrews 7:16)
In this holy season of grace, we ask to be more deeply united to the Spirit of Christ, to be filled with the joy of our salvation. Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) Lent is a season of grace; grace that is greater than all of our sin and will bring us back to that Spirit of Christ in whom is our hope and our joy. Only in Christ are we truly alive and know who we are. And if we are in Christ, we have the hope of Glory; we are no longer overcome by evil; we have all we need in Jesus.
There are some questions we might want to consider in these remaining days of Lent. Do I pray each day to be animated by the Spirit of Christ? Do I know Christ as my life? Do I rejoice in the power of the Cross like Paul and Silas and all Christians have done since AD 33? Do I embrace the gospel of Christ and say with my life and my lifestyle, "I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith?" (Romans 1:16)
Let's remember what Paul says today. Those in the Flesh cannot please God! Flesh and Spirit talk might sound a little spooky, but keep reading. Filled with the Spirit of Christ we live in the friendship of Jesus. Living outside of Christ's friendship is to remain in the Flesh and enslaved to sin. So the most important thing we can want in this life is to be the best jar of clay we can be that ever was filled with the Spirit of Christ. For anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him! I want to belong to Jesus. I want Jesus to look over at me and say, "He's one of my friends!"
On the way to Damascus to continue his persecution of the Church, Paul met Jesus. He's the same Jesus I met at a Pentecostal altar in Huntingburg, Indiana when I was 9 years old. I bow before the same Lord in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. In the mornings I trace myself with the sign of the cross to remind me and the devil that I belong to Jesus. And at Mass he's the same Jesus I receive in word and bread.
In this Holy Lent, we desire to know Jesus better, more deeply, and more singularly. Personally, I want my relationship with Jesus to be heartfelt; a passionate confession of my innermost self. I want to know Christ so richly that I can say freely, "Whatever gain I had, I counted loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, righteousness that is from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-10)
Just a short distance from the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha, "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." This is not an empty promise. It's a promise that is pregnant with the power of him who called with a loud voice to his dear friend, Lazarus, "Come forth!"
Let's make this even more personal. What about us? What about you and me? That was great for Lazarus, but what about us when the long shadow appears. Here's the promise: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through the Spirit which dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com