Thứ Bảy, 1 tháng 4, 2017

APRIL 02, 2017 : FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 34

Reading 1EZ 37:12-14
Thus says the Lord GOD: 
O my people, I will open your graves 
and have you rise from them, 
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
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, 
and I will settle you upon your land; 
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Responsorial PsalmPS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
R. (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication. 
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered. 
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2ROM 8:8-11
Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; 
on the contrary, you are in the spirit, 
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you, 
although the body is dead because of sin, 
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, 
the one who raised Christ from the dead 
will give life to your mortal bodies also, 
through his Spirit dwelling in you.

Verse Before The GospelJN 11:25A, 26
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die.

GospelJN 11:1-45
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, 
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil 
and dried his feet with her hair; 
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying, 
"Master, the one you love is ill."
when Jesus heard this he said,
"This illness is not to end in death, 
but is for the glory of God, 
that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill, 
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples, 
"Let us go back to Judea."
The disciples said to him, 
"Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, 
and you want to go back there?"
Jesus answered,
"Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, 
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles, 
because the light is not in him." 
He said this, and then told them,
"Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him."
So the disciples said to him,
"Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved."
But Jesus was talking about his death, 
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. 
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
"Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe. 
Let us go to him."
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, 
"Let us also go to die with him."

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus 
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary 
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus, 
"Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you."
Jesus said to her,
"Your brother will rise."
Martha said to him,
"I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; 
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?"
She said to him, "Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world."

When she had said this, 
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, 
"The teacher is here and is asking for you."
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village, 
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her 
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her, 
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, 
she fell at his feet and said to him, 
"Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, 
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, 
"Where have you laid him?"
They said to him, "Sir, come and see."
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, "See how he loved him."
But some of them said, 
"Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man 
have done something so that this man would not have died?"

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, "Take away the stone."
Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 
"Lord, by now there will be a stench; 
he has been dead for four days."
Jesus said to her,
"Did I not tell you that if you believe 
you will see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
"Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me; 
but because of the crowd here I have said this, 
that they may believe that you sent me."
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice, 
"Lazarus, come out!"
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands, 
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
"Untie him and let him go."

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, 
"Master, the one you love is ill."
When Jesus heard this he said,
"This illness is not to end in death, 
but is for the glory of God, 
that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill, 
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples, 
"Let us go back to Judea."

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus 
had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him; 
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus, 
"Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you."
Jesus said to her,
"Your brother will rise."
Martha said,
"I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; 
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?"
She said to him, "Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world."

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, 
"Where have you laid him?"
They said to him, "Sir, come and see."
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, "See how he loved him."
But some of them said, 
"Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man 
have done something so that this man would not have died?"

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, "Take away the stone."
Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 
"Lord, by now there will be a stench; 
he has been dead for four days."
Jesus said to her,
"Did I not tell you that if you believe 
you will see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said, 
"Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me; 
but because of the crowd here I have said this, 
that they may believe that you sent me."
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice, 
"Lazarus, come out!"
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands, 
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
"Untie him and let him go."

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.


5th Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage. 

1st Reading - Ezekiel 37:12-14

Ezekiel is of a priestly family and was among the captives who were carried off to Babylon in 597 B.C. He is called “The Prophet of Divine Fidelity” because he emphasizes the fact that God is faithful in His threats as well as in His promises. He kept up the courage of his fellow captives by foretelling the doom of Babylon, the end of the captivity, and the redemption of mankind by the Messiah. He is said to have died a martyr. 

Today’s reading takes place in Babylon, and Ezekiel is led out by the spirit into a plain (on which may have remained the unburied bones of those who had fallen in battle. [This is the passage which led to the old Negro spiritual “Dem Bones”.] These are the words which lead up to today’s reading (Ezekiel 37:1-11): 1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones. 2 He made me walk among them in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were! 3 He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? “Lord GOD,” I answered, “you alone know that.” 4 Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. 6 I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. 7 I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone. 8 I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them. 9 Then he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life. 10 I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”

This mystical experience symbolizes his mission to the exiles: through his prophesying, they will receive a new spirit that will enable them to rise from their lost hope and to lead a new life in the land of Israel. 

12    Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of 
Israel.

Israel has been totally destroyed by an attacking army, but it will be restored. No reference to the resurrection of individuals from death is intended. 

13    Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! 14 I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. 

The Hebrew word for spirit is ruah. God’s breath. The aim of the prophecy is to give the captives new spirit to rise from their captivity. Although not referring to the resurrection of individuals, the concept is not far removed. 

2nd Reading - Romans 8:8-11

In Romans 5:1-11 Saint Paul announced that justified Christians have been empowered to live a new life as the result of God’s love manifested in the liberating acts of Christ. Now that liberation from sin, death, and the Law has taken place, they are able to live this life “for God”, whose love is poured out through the dynamic principle of such life, the Spirit of God Himself. Christian existence is dominated by the Spirit, not the flesh. 

8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh;

Paul chooses a neutral way of expressing the goal of human life: to please God. It is a goal aimed at by both Jew and Christian, yet it cannot be attained by one who is dominated by self (in the flesh); one must be “in the Spirit” i.e., live according to the Spirit. 

“The apostle does not reject the substance of flesh but shows that the Spirit must be infused into it.” [Saint Irenaeus (A.D. 180-199), Against Heresies, 5,10,2] 

on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

The Spirit, as the new principle of Christian vitality, is derived from God, the same source as all other manifestations of salvation. The baptized Christian is not only “in the Spirit”, but the Spirit is now said to dwell in him or her. 

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Note how Paul interchanges the “Spirit of God”, the “Spirit of Christ”, and “Christ” as he tries to express the multi-faceted reality of the Christian experience of participation in divine life. Attachment to Christ is only possible by the “spiritualization” of human beings. This is no mere external identification with the cause of Christ, or even a grateful recognition of what He once did for humanity. Rather, the Christian who belongs to Christ is the one empowered to “live for God” through the vitalizing influence of His Spirit. 

10    But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Here, Paul equates Christ and Spirit and plays on the meanings of the Greek word pneuma which means “breath” and “spirit”. Without the Spirit, the source of Christian vitality, the human body is like a corpse because of the influence of sin, but in union with Christ the human spirit lives, for the Spirit resuscitates the dead human being through the gift of uprightness. As a result of the sin of Adam death entered the world and is the earthly legacy of us all. In union with Christ our spirit lives beyond this earthly legacy and enters into eternal life.

“Paul is not saying here that the Spirit is Christ but is showing rather that anyone who has the Spirit has Christ as well. For where the Spirit is, there Christ is also. Wherever one person of the Trinity is present, the whole Trinity is present too. For the Trinity is undivided and has a perfect unity in itself.” [Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, 13] 

11    If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,

The power of animating the Christian is thus traced to its ultimate source, for the Spirit is the manifestation of the Father’s presence and power in the world since the resurrection of Christ and through it. 

the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also,

The future tense refers to the role of the Spirit in the end times resurrection of Christians 

through his Spirit that dwells in you. 

At His resurrection Christ became, through the Father’s glory, the principle of the raising of Christians. It is the Spirit as related to the risen Christ that is the life giving principle. Because of the gift of the Spirit the Christian is a child of God, adopted and destined for the glory of God’s intimate presence. 

Gospel - John 11:1-45

Today we complete our “short course” in the faith. After rehearsing briefly the story of God’s saving acts and tying those saving acts to our baptism/confirmation, we look this week at the concept of resurrection in Christ. Our first reading told of God raising up the dry bones of Israel and restoring the people. That reading ended “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live . . .” Our Epistle reading told us of the new life and spirit given by the Lord. This is both a gift and a confrontation, however. To receive the gift, we must change our perspective of life and accept a whole new reality. Our gospel reading today tells of the resurrection of Lazarus when Jesus tells us “I am the resurrection and the life.” This is the longest continuous narrative in John outside of the passion account. It is the climax of the signs and leads directly to the decision of the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus. 

1    Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

The name “Lazarus” means “God has helped” (Hebrew: Eleazar). By the way the sacred writer introduces the village, he expects us to know who Martha and Mary are (Luke 10:3842 where Jesus is a guest and teaches in their house) . The name today is El-Azariyeh (an Arabic corruption of the name Lazarus). It is less than two miles southeast of Jerusalem, separated from it by the Mount of Olives. 

2    Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

There are a number of women in the Gospels who are called Mary. The Mary here is Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, the woman who later anointed our Lord, again in Bethany, at the house of Simon the Leper. “She was the one who anointed” expresses an action which occurred prior to the time of writing, but the anointing took place after the resurrection of Lazarus. Were Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and the “sinful” woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Galilee (Luke 7:36) one, two, or three women? It seems most likely that they are all different people. Due to the times, locations and details reported the anointings at Bethany and Galilee are believed to be two separate anointings. Nothing given about Mary Magdalene links her to the other two Marys. 

3    So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”

The sisters’ message simply states the facts. The sisters’ request, like the Blessed Virgin’s at Cana, is implicit in their words. 

4    When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Like Cana, Jesus’ first reply appears to be a rejection of the request. 

5    Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

John is careful to point out that it was not lack of love for Lazarus and his sisters that caused Him to delay going to him. The reason for the delay will become apparent later in this narrative. 

6    So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”

The disciples are reminding Him that His life is in danger there (John 10:31, 39). 

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

Jesus’ answer uses the image of His coming (and impending departure) as light of the world (John 9:4-5). The phrase “the light is not in him” may reflect the ancient Jewish belief that there was a light within the eye which allowed a person to see (see also Luke 11:34; Matthew 6:23). 

11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” 12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” 13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.

The pattern of dialog often depicted in John is followed: Jesus makes a statement regarding a profound religious truth which is misunderstood in a surface and material sense. This misunderstanding permits the Lord (or John at times) to develop further the truly spiritual meaning of His pronouncement. 

14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. 15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

Didymus is the Greek word for twin; Thomas is derived from the Aramaic word for twin. In the ancient Syriac version and in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (80:11-12) his given name, Judas, is provided. Thomas’ words remind us of the Apostles saying at the Last Supper that they would be ready to die for their master (Matthew 26:31-35). We have already seen how the apostles stayed loyal when many disciples left our Lord after His bread of life discourse (John 6:67-71). 

17    When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

This underlies the reality of Lazarus’ death. Contemporary Jewish belief was that the soul of the dead remained in the vicinity of the body for three days and then departed. Some commentators take the day Jesus was notified (v4), the two days more that He stayed (v6) and this four days; add them and show that the resurrection occurred on the 7th day. 

18    Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.

Mourning rites usually extended seven days from the time of death. 

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

One who is well known for His miracles should have been able to heal Lazarus. Martha confesses a faith in Jesus that recognizes that God is the source of Jesus’ powers. This separates her from those crowds that are amazed by Jesus’ deeds and divided over His identity. 

22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus’ words to Martha have elicited an expression of her belief in the resurrection of the dead in the end times; a doctrine held by the Pharisees. 

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus affirms Martha’s belief in a resurrection to come, with the significant addition that its power is to be found in Himself. Physical death is the common lot of mankind, Christians included, but faith in Christ will bring the believer to life again in the resurrection. Since the believer already possesses true or eternal life, physical death can never really affect him. 

27    She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Martha confesses her faith in these Christian truths, using the formulas with which she was familiar from Old Testament expectation. She still has not been told that Lazarus will rise here and now as a sign. 

28    When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” 29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. 31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary’s greeting is almost the same as Martha’s. She too confesses a faith in Jesus that recognizes that God is the source of His powers.

33    When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 

Literally, “He snorted in spirit and was deeply troubled”. Perhaps in anger at the presence of evil (death). With these actions even the crowd is able to recognize that Jesus “loved” Lazarus. 

34    and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” 35 And Jesus wept.

Verse 35 is the shortest verse in Holy Scripture. In many translations it is only the two words “Jesus wept”. 

36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” 37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” 38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”

Jesus’ command to remove the stone provides one last occasion to remind the readers of how long Lazarus has been buried. 

40    Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of 
God?”

Only the disciples (in v4) had been explicitly told that the death of Lazarus is for the “glory of God”. 

41    So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. 42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus is not play-acting. His visible thanksgiving to the Father however, is necessary to bring out the truth that in His works He is not simply a man endowed with wonderworking power but the emissary of the Father of life. 

43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

A dramatization of John 5:28 “the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” (See also Daniel 12:2). 

44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” 45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. 
  
As is usual in the gospels, this narrative of the marvelous is brought to a matter-of-fact conclusion with no attempt to satisfy idle curiosity about incidental details. 



Meditation: "I am the resurrection and the life"
If a true "friend loves at all times" (Proverbs 17:17), why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus' home when he knew that his friend was gravely ill? Jesus certainly loved Lazarus and his two sisters and he often stayed in their home at Bethany. But to the surprise of his friends and disciples, Jesus did not go right away to Bethany when he was called. Jesus explained that Lazarus' sickness would bring glory to God. The glory which Jesus had in mind, however, was connected with suffering and the cross. He saw the cross as his supreme glory and the way to glory in the kingdom of God. For Jesus there was no other way to glory except through the cross.
Jesus also knew that it was dangerous for him to travel anywhere near Jerusalem at this time, since the religious authorities in Jerusalem were plotting his destruction. Jesus, however, was willing to pay the price to help his friend. For Jesus to come to Jerusalem at Passover time was an act of courage. The explanation which Jesus gave to his disciples was simple and challenging at the same time. "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" In so many words he said: "There are enough hours in the day to do what one must do." A day can neither be rushed nor extended. Its period is fixed.
Courage to act in the light of God's truth
In God's economy we each have our "day" whether it be short or long. While time is limited, there is enough for us to accomplish what God intends. God gives each of us our allotted portion in life. We can either waste it or use it to the utmost for God's glory. Jesus did not let circumstances or pressure dictate what he would do. Nor did he permit others to dictate his actions or timetable. He took action of his own initiative and in his good time. Don't we often try to get God to do things in our way and on our timetable?
Both the Romans and the Jews divided the day into twelve equal hours from sunrise to sunset. The day's work and travel, however, ceased when the daylight was gone. If someone wanted to get their day's work done, he had to do it before it got dark. Jesus made a spiritual analogy with our relationship with God. While the light of Christ is with us, we must live and walk in the truth and grace of his light. There's a right time to make peace with God, and that time is now. When darkness comes, then judgment follows for those who refuse God and spurn his love.
When Jesus announced that Lazarus was dead and that he was going to Jerusalem, Thomas showed both his courage and pessimism. "Let us go, that we may die with him." This courage, however, was not tempered with faith and hope in God's promise to bring victory out of defeat. Even though Thomas was a witness to Lazarus' resurrection, he betrayed his master when arrest and death stared him in the face. He doubted his master's resurrection until Jesus showed him the wounds of his passion. God gives us faith, courage, and the strength we need to persevere through any trial and suffering we must face in this life. If we embrace our cross with faith and trust in God, then we, too, will see victory and glory in the end.
The hope of our resurrection
What is the significance of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? It is more than a miraculous event. It is a "sign" of God's promise to raise up all who have died in Christ to everlasting life. That is why Jesus asked Martha if she believed in the resurrection from the dead. The Christian creed, which is the profession of our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and in the saving power of God, culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting. This is our faith and our hope.
"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 his Spirit which dwells in you" (Romans 8:11).
God gives us the power of his Holy Spirit that we may be made alive in Christ.  Even now we can experience the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus in our personal lives. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change and transform us into men and women of faith, hope, and love. Do you believe that the power of Jesus' resurrection is at work in your life today? Let the Holy Spirit strengthen within you the life and joy of God and the hope of heaven.
God is my help
The name Lazarus means "God is my help". Jesus' parable about the poor man Lazarus, who died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:19-31), ends with a warning: "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead." Through Lazarus' sickness and subsequent death, God brought glory through his Son the Lord Jesus, who raised his friend from the dead in anticipation of his own death and resurrection. Our participation in the Lord's Supper in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Jesus' transfiguration of our bodies.
Irenaeus, a second century church father states:
"Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection"(Adv. Haeres. 4,18).
Psalm 27 ends with the great prayer of hope in the resurrection:
"I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord!"
Do you find joy and hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
"Lord Jesus Christ, you have ransomed us with your blood and restored us to life with the Father in heaven. May your resurrection be our hope as we long for the day when we will see you face to face in glory."
 Daily Quote for LentCross and Resurrection, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Jesus' cross is an example of painful toil. His resurrection is the reward of painful toil. In the cross He showed us how we are to bear suffering. In His resurrection He showed us what we are to hope for." (excerpt from On the Creed 3,9)


FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
SUNDAY, APRIL 2, JOHN 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 33b-45

(Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11)

KEY VERSE: "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live" (v.25).
TO KNOW: Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus to come immediately to the village of Bethany where they lived with their brother Lazarus who was dying. The disciples feared for Jesus' life as the town was near Jerusalem. Knowing his fate awaited him in the Holy City, Jesus declared that God's glory would be revealed so that all might believe. Since Jesus was delayed in coming, upon his arrival, Martha told Jesus that he was too late; her brother had already died. Although Martha reproached Jesus for not coming sooner, she was confident that God would grant whatever he asked. Jesus told her that he had power over life and death, and asked her if she believed that his words were true. Like Peter, Martha confessed her faith in Jesus as the "Messiah, the Son of God" (Mt 16:16). With a powerful command, Jesus raised Lazarus to life, a symbol of Christ's own resurrection and our rising to new life with him. Ironically, it was this gift of life that would lead to Jesus' own death.
TO LOVE: Does my parish have a bereavement ministry to assist those grieving over loss of a loved one?
TO SERVE: Lord Jesus, raise me to new life in you.

NOTE: On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the Third Scrutiny of the Elect (RCIA, 171). When the elect, catechumens and candidates are present, the story of the Raising of Lazarus is read (Jn 11).In the Scrutiny Rites, those preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil as well as the entire assembly are called to examine the areas in their lives that block God's love and discover where they are entombed in sin and need to experience the life of the Risen Christ. During this week the Presentation of the Lord's Prayer is celebrated with the elect (RCIA, 178). ​


Sunday 2nd April 2017

SUN 2ND. Fifth Sunday of Lent. Ek37:1-14; Rm 8:6-11; Jn 11:1-45.

‘At the sight of Mary’s tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, “Where have you put him?” They said, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.’ John 11:33-35
Two pieces of trivia: ‘Jesus wept’ is not only the shortest verse in the whole Bible, it also comes exactly halfway through the Gospel of John. More importantly, for much of this Gospel Jesus is serenely in control of every situation he encounters, but at the sight of Mary’s tears he becomes so distressed that he weeps. In this pivotal moment Jesus’ humanity and vulnerability and empathy could not be more plainly evident. And yet, just a moment later, Jesus’ divinity and power over death could not be more plainly evident: he draws Lazarus back from the tomb and back into life.
The Gospel does not deny the reality of suffering and pain. These cannot be avoided, no matter how secure I try to make myself. To live is to be vulnerable, and to love is to give one’s life over to another. This is the human condition. What the Gospel is trying to tell us is that this human condition is also a place where we can find divine love, even beyond death. As I think of my dying loved one, who possibly has only one or two weeks to live, I pray ‘Lord, I am in the thrall of death, come and see’. I feel Jesus’ tears join my tears. I join my small hope in divine love to Jesus great hope in divine love.
In these final two weeks of Lent the tension between the ways of the world and the Word of Jesus is raised to breaking point. I will walk with Jesus, terrified, but as close as I can.
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ST. FRANCIS OF PAOLA

Catholics will remember St. Francis of Paola on April 2. The saint founded a religious order at a young age and sought to revive the practices of the earliest monks during a period of corruption in the Church.
Francis was born in the Southern Italian region of Calabria during 1416. His parents, who maintained a strong devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, named their son after him. The boy's father and mother had little in the way of wealth, but they passed on a rich spiritual heritage to their son, with the hope that he would imitate his namesake.
The young Francis showed signs of a remarkable spiritual life, following his parents' lead in accepting poverty as a path to holiness. When his father placed him in the care of a group of Franciscan friars to be educated at the age of 13, Francis made a personal decision to live strictly according to the rule of their religious order.
After a year with the friars, Francis rejoined his parents as they made a pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome,  and the historic Franciscan church known as the Portiuncula. When the family returned to their hometown of Paola, Francis – at the age of only 15 – asked his parents' permission to live as a hermit, 
in the manner of the earliest desert fathers such as St. Anthony of Egypt.
The young monk slept in a cave, and ate what he could gather in the wild, along with occasional offerings of food from his friends in the town. Within four years, two companions had joined him, and the townspeople assisted in building three individual cells for the hermits, as well as a chapel where  a priest would offer Mass.
With approval from the local archbishop, this small group continued to grow into a larger religious order, without compromising the young founder's insistence on penitential and primitive living conditions. They were first known as the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, but later renamed the “Minimi” (or “Minims”), meaning “the least,” and signifying their commitment to humility.
Francis and his monks were notable not only for their austere lifestyle, but also for their strict diet, which not only eliminated meat and fish, but also excluded eggs, dairy products, and other foods derived from animals.
Abstinence from meat and other animal products became a “fourth vow” of his religious order, along with the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Francis instituted the continual, year-round observance of this diet in an effort to revive the tradition of fasting during Lent, which many Roman Catholics had ceased to practice by the 15th century.
Ironically, Francis' pursuit of solitary communion with God attracted attention from a range of important figures, including several European kings and other nobility along with Popes and bishops. Some of these men regarded Francis as a spiritual leader in a corrupt age, while others may have been more interested in his gifts of prophecy and miraculous healing.
Francis traveled to France at the request of Pope Sixtus IV, taking with him his nephew Nicholas, whom he had raised from the dead. There, the notoriously power-hungry King Louis XI was approaching the point of death himself, and hoped that Francis would perform a miracle and restore his health.
Francis told the king bluntly that he should not fear the end of his earthly life, but the loss of eternal life. From that time, the hermit became a close spiritual adviser to the king. He discussed the reality of death and eternity with him, and urged him to surrender his heart and soul to God before it was too late.
The king died in Francis' arms in 1483.
Louis XI's son and successor, Charles VIII, maintained the monk as a close adviser, in spiritual and even political affairs. Nonetheless, Francis persisted in following the monastic rule he had developed while living in his hermitage outside of Paola. He continued as superior general of the Minim order, and founded new monasteries in France.
Francis sensed that his death was approaching at the age of 91, and returned to living in complete solitude for three months to prepare himself. When he emerged, he gathered a group of the Minim brothers and gave them final instructions for the future of the order. He received Holy Communion for the last time and died on April 2, Good Friday of 1507.
Pope Leo X canonized St. Francis of Paola 12 years after his death, in 1519. Although the Minim order lost many of its monasteries in the 18th century during the French Revolution, it continues to exist, primarily in Italy.

LECTIO DIVINA: 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, April 2, 2017
Lent Time

The resurrection of Lazarus
In the "House of the Poor"
Jesus reveals himself as the source of life
John 11, 1-45
1. OPENING PRAYER
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. READING: JOHN 11, 1-45
a) A key to guide the reading:
Let us read the text, which describes the resurrection of Lazarus. During the reading, try to follow the group, the disciples who follow Jesus from Galilee to Bethany. You must follow attentively all the events, from the time that the announcement of the sickness of the Martha and Mary’s brother was sent to Jesus who was in Galilee, to the time of the resurrection of Lazarus.
b) A division of the text to assist a careful reading:
John 11, 1-16: Jesus hears the news and sets out for Bethany to raise Lazarus.
John 11, 17-31: Jesus meets the two sisters and Martha’s profession of faith.
John 11, 32-45: The great sign of the resurrection of Lazarus.
c) The text:
1-16: There was a man named Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, 'Lord, the man you love is ill.' On receiving the message, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death, but it is for God's glory so that through it the Son of God may be glorified.' Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that he was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, 'Let us go back to Judaea.' The disciples said, 'Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews were trying to stone you; are you going back there again?' Jesus replied: Are there not twelve hours in the day? No one who walks in the daytime stumbles, having the light of this world to see by; anyone who walks around at night stumbles, having no light as a guide. He said that and then added, 'Our friend Lazarus is at rest; I am going to wake him.' The disciples said to him, 'Lord, if he is at rest he will be saved.' Jesus was speaking of the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by 'rest' he meant 'sleep'; so Jesus put it plainly, 'Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.' Then Thomas -- known as the Twin -- said to the other disciples, 'Let us also go to die with him.'
17-31: On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said, 'I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said: I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.' When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, 'The Master is here and wants to see you.' Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house comforting Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
32-45: Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who had come with her, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said, 'Where have you put him?' They said, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept; and the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him!' But there were some who remarked, 'He opened the eyes of the blind man. Could he not have prevented this man's death?' Sighing again, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, 'Take the stone away.' Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 'Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day since he died.' Jesus replied, 'Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?' So they took the stone away. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I myself knew that you hear me always, but I speak for the sake of all these who are standing around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me. When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, let him go free.' Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him,
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What drew your attention most in this very detailed account? Why?
b) Which is the central and most important point of the whole narrative? Why?
c) What was the attitude of the disciples? What did they say and do?
d) What was the attitude of Martha and Mary? What did they say and do?
e) What was the attitude of the Jews? What did they say, do and plan?
f) With whom can you identify yourself most: the disciples, the sisters, the Jews, or none of these?
g) Have you ever experienced times when despair and hope, life and death got confused in your thought? In times such as these, what kept up your faith?
h) How does Lazarus rise to life today? How does resurrection take place today, giving new life to the poor?
5. A KEY TO THE READING
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
The difference between the Gospel of John and that of the other three Evangelists.
A comparison in order to understand the difference. Photo and X-Ray. You are in wonder at the beauty of nature before a sunrise. You see and contemplate what your eyes look at. This is the photo! Next to you, a friend says to you, "Have you noticed how that small cloud changed into a deeper colour? Our friendship is like this!" She saw more than that which the eyes were looking at. This is the X-Ray. Love for and faith in one another have expanded her vision. The Gospel of John is like this; it is the Gospel of the beloved disciple. He teaches us how to read the other Gospels and to discover in them a deeper dimension. The other three Gospels take photos of the miracles. John takes an X-Ray and reveals his deep sense of the divine, that which only faith can see by the working of the Spirit (John 14,26; 16,19).
* For instance, the synoptics mention twenty-eight different miracles. John only mentions seven and he calls them "signs". Of the seven, only three are found in the synoptics. The other four are exclusive to John: the marriage feast in Cana (Jn 2,1-11), the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Siloe (Jn 5,1-9), the healing of the man born blind (Jn 9,1-7) and the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11,1-44). In the way he presents these "signs", John does much more than simply telling the miracle. He expands the facts so that they manifest Jesus as the revelation of the Father. John’s Gospel tries to throw light on Jesus’ saying, "To have seen me is to have seen the Father" (Jn 14,9). When we hold up to the light the X-Ray of Jesus in John’s Gospel, we see the face of the Father.
Lazarus’ resurrection in the scheme of John’s Gospel
* The scheme of the seven signs:
1st Sign: the marriage feast of Cana (Jn 2,1-12)
2nd Sign: the healing of the nobleman’s son (Jn 4,46-54)
3rd Sign: the healing of the paralytic (Jn 5,1-18)
4th Sign: the multiplication of the bread (Jn 6,1-15)
5th Sign: Jesus walks on the water (Jn 6,16-21)
6th Sign: the healing of the blind man (Jn 9,1-40)
7th Sign: the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11,1-44)
The great sign is the HOUR of Jesus’ glorification.
* The seven signs are seven prefigurations of the glorification of Jesus, which will take place at the Hour of his passion, death and resurrection. Each sign symbolises one aspect of the meaning of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. It is in "meditating day and night" through the Lectio Divina or Prayerful Reading that we shall discover this meaning, which will enrich our lives.
* The resurrection of Lazarus, the seventh sign, opens the way for the coming of the Hour, the glorification, which takes place through death (Jn 12,23; 17,1). One of the reasons why Jesus is condemned will be the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11,50; 12,10). Thus, the seventh sign will be in order to manifest the glory of God (Jn 11,4): "This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory and through it the Son of God will be glorified". The disciples cannot understand this (Jn 11,6-8). But even though they do not understand, they are ready to go and die with Jesus (Jn 11,16). Their understanding is slight, but their faith is right.
The meaning of Lazarus’ resurrection
* In Bethany: Everything happens in Bethany, a small village at the foot of the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. In the story, Lazarus’ family, where Jesus liked to go, is the mirror of the community of the Beloved Disciple at the end of the first century. Mirror also of our communities. Bethany means "House of the Poor". Martha means "Lady" (coordinator); a lady who coordinates the community. Lazarus means "God helps" the poor community, which hoped for everything from God. Mary means "beloved of Yahweh", the image of the community. The story of the resurrection of Lazarus wants to communicate this certainty: Jesus brings life to the community of the poor; he is the source of life for those who believe in him.
* Between life and death: Lazarus is dead. Many Jews are at Martha and Mary’s house to comfort them for the loss of their brother. Those who represent the Old Testament do not bring new life. They just console. Jesus is the one who brings new life! In John’s Gospel, the Jews are also the enemies who wish to kill Jesus (Jn 10,31). So we have on one side the threat of death against Jesus, and on the other Jesus who comes to conquer death! It is in this context of conflict between life and death that the seventh sign of the resurrection of Lazarus, of victory over death, takes place.
* Two ways of believing in the resurrection: The central point is the contrast between the old way of believing in the resurrection at the end of times, and the new brought by Jesus, which until now conquers death. Martha, the Pharisees and the majority of the people believed in the resurrection (Acts 23,6-10, Mk 12,18). They believed, but did not reveal it, because their faith was only in the resurrection at the end of times and not in the present resurrection of the story, here and now. That resurrection did not renew life. A link was missing. The new life of the resurrection comes with Jesus.
* Profession of faith in Jesus and profession of faith in life: Jesus challenges Martha to take that step. It is not enough to believe in the resurrection at the end of times, we must believe that Resurrection is already here today in the person of Jesus and in those who believe in him. Death no longer holds power over these, because Jesus is the "resurrection and the life". And, Martha, even though she has not yet seen the concrete sign of the resurrection of Lazarus, professes her faith: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world".
* Human, very human, equal to us in all things: After her profession of faith, Martha calls Mary, her sister. Mary goes to meet Jesus, who was still where Martha had met him. She repeats Martha’s expression: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (Jn 11,21). Mary weeps, everyone weeps. Jesus is moved. When the poor weep, Jesus is moved and weeps. When they see Jesus weeping, the others say, "See how much he loved him!" This is the characteristic of the community of the Beloved Disciple: love between Jesus and the members of the community. Some do not believe and still doubt: "He opened the eyes of the blind, could he not have prevented this man’s death?" For the third time, Jesus is moved (Jn 11,33.35.38). Thus, John stresses Jesus’ humanity against those who, at the end of the first century, spiritualised the faith and denied the humanity of Jesus.
* For us, there only remains to remove the stone so that God may give life back to us: Jesus orders the stone to be removed. Martha reacts: "Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day!" Once more, Jesus challenges her recalling her faith in the resurrection, here and now, as a sign of God’s glory: "Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" They removed the stone. Before the open tomb and before the incredulity of those standing there, Jesus turns to the Father. First, he thanks the Father, "Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me". The Father of Jesus is the same God who always hears the cry of the poor (Es 2,24; 3,7). Jesus knows the Father and trusts him. But now he asks for a sign for the sake of those who stand there, so that they may believe that he, Jesus, was sent by the Father. Then, he shouts aloud, "Lazarus, here. Come out!" And Lazarus comes out. This is the victory of life over death, of faith over unbelief! A farmer in the interior of Brazil commented, "It is up to us to remove the stone! And so God resurrects the community. There are those who do not want to remove the stone, and so in their community there is no life!"
6. PSALM 16 (15)
 God is our birthright forever
Protect me, O God, in you is my refuge.
To Yahweh I say, 'You are my Lord,
my happiness is in none of the sacred spirits of the earth.'
They only take advantage of all who love them.
People flock to their teeming idols.
Never shall I pour libations to them!
Never take their names on my lips.
My birthright, my cup is Yahweh;
you, you alone, hold my lot secure.
The measuring-line marks out for me a delightful place,
my birthright is all I could wish.
I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.
So my heart rejoices, my soul delights,
my body too will rest secure,
for you will not abandon me to Sheol,
you cannot allow your faithful servant to see the abyss.
You will teach me the path of life,
unbounded joy in your presence,
at your right hand delight for ever.
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.