Readings 5th Sunday Lent Cycle A (26 March)

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Sunday, 26 March 2023
Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
Readings on p.296 of Daily Missal and p.113  of Sunday Missal

Entrance Antiphon.
Give me justice, O God, and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless.  From the deceitful and cunning rescue me, for you, O God, are my strength.

First Reading: Ezekiel 37: 12-14

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

Thus says the Lord God:
Behold, I will open your graves,
and raise you from your graves, O my people;
and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. 
And you shall know that I am the Lord,
when I open your graves,
and raise you from your graves, O my people. 
And I will put my Spirit within you,
and you shall live,
and I will place you in your own land;
then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken,
and I have done it, says the Lord.”

The Word of the Lord

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 1130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7b-8 (R. 7b)

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.

R/:  With the Lord there is mercy, in him is plentiful redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the sound of my pleading.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you is found forgiveness,
that you may be revered.

I long for you, O Lord,
my soul longs for his word.
My soul hopes in the Lord
more than watchmen for daybreak.
More than watchmen for daybreak,
let Israel hope for the Lord.

For with the Lord there is mercy,
in him is plentiful redemption.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

R/:  With the Lord there is mercy, in him is plentiful redemption.

Second Reading: Romans 8: 8-11

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh,
you are in the Spirit,
if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.
Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ
does not belong to him. 
But if Christ is in you,
although your bodies are dead because of sin,
your spirits are alive because of righteousness.
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 who dwells in you.

The Word of the Lord

Please stand for the Gospel

Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; he who believes in me shall never die. 
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

Gospel: John 11:1-45

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

At that time:
A certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 
It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment
and wiped his feet with her hair,
whose brother Lazarus was ill. 
So the sisters sent to him, saying,
“Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 

But when Jesus heard it he said,
“This illness is not unto death;
it is for the glory of God,
so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 
So when he heard that he was ill,
he stayed two days longe in the place where he was. 
Then after this he said to the disciples,
“Let us go into Judea again.” 

The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you,
and are you going there again?” 

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?
If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world. 
But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.” 
Thus he spoke, and then he said to them,
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep,
but I go to awake him out of sleep.” 

The disciples said to him,
“Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 

Now Jesus had spoken of his death,
but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead; 
and for your sake I am glad that I was not there,
so that you may believe.
But let us go to him.” 

Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Now when Jesus came,
he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 
Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to console them concerning their brother. 
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went and met him,
while Mary sat in the house. 
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died. 
And even now I know that whatever you ask from God,
God will give you.” 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 

Martha said to him,
“I know that he will rise again
in the resurrection at the last day.” 

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.
Do you believe this?” 

She said to him, “Yes, Lord;
I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
he who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly,
“The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 
And when she heard it,
she rose quickly and went to him. 
Now Jesus had not yet come to the village,
but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 
When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her,
saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her,
supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 

Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, f
ell at his feet, saying to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.” 

When Jesus saw her weeping,
and the Jews who came with her also weeping,
he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; 
and he said, “Where have you laid him?” 

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 

Jesus wept. 
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 
But some of them said,
“Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man
have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb;
it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” 

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him,
“Lord, by this time there will be an odour,
for he has been dead four days.” 

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

So they took away the stone.
And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 
I knew that you always hear me,
but I have said this on account of the people standing by,
that they may believe that you have sent me.” 
When he had said this,
he cried with a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out.” 

The dead man came out,
his hands and feet bound with bandages,
and his face wrapped with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Many of the Jews therefore,
who had come with Mary and had seen what he did,
believed in him; 

The Gospel of the Lord

Homile


I have made promises I haven’t kept. 

  • Sometimes I forget, or just never get around to them. 
  • I don’t think I intentionally lie when I make those promises. 
  • People say I’m a responsible person. 
  • But still, there are those promises hanging up in the air, unfulfilled. I need to get to them!

It is a different case with God. 

  • God is a “Promise Keeper.” 
  • We hear one of God’s promises today from the prophet Ezekiel. This wasn’t just any old promise, not like some of ours, “I promise, I’ll pick up ice cream on the way home.”
  • God is making a promise to people who are in desperate straits. 
  • With authority Ezekiel ends his prophecy in God’s voice, “I have promised and I will do it says the Lord.” 
  • Why did the people need to hear a promise from God?

We usually associate a prophet with harsh, confronting language, directed to a resistant people who need to be shaken out of their apathy, or downright indifference to God. 

  • The prophets tried to reconcile people with God, sometimes at great costs to themselves. 
  • Ezekiel started as a prophet in that strong, confrontational tradition. 
  • He preached against a sinful Judah. 
  • But the people ignored his warning and, as he had predicted, the Babylonians conquered the nation. 
  • The prophet was one of the first to be taken off into exile.

Ezekiel’s name means “God is strong” or, “God strengthens.” 

  • Because of the suffering of the exiled people Ezekiel’s message changes to one of hope. 
  • He encourages the Jewish people to trust that God was with them; yes, even in their place of misery, where God felt most absent. 
  • Here comes the promise: God would intervene and come to their aid.

What a consoling message Ezekiel had for the people! 

  • “O my people, I will open your graves.” 
  • Jesus fulfilled that promise when he shouted at the grave of Lazarus, “Come out!” – And Lazarus returned to life.
  • See, God is a Promise Keeper.

Very soon Holy Week will be here. 

  • Holy Week takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
  • On Palm Sunday we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem with great joy and excitement.
  • Here was the great healer and holy man coming to be with people.
  • Then in a matter of days, he is a common criminal who is humiliated and put to death. 
  • What could Jesus be thinking as he goes toward such a fate? 
    • What was Jesus’ attitude toward death and Good Friday? 
    • Was he unmoved by what he faced?

This Sunday gives us a clue. 

  • It seems that he gives a real life illustration. 
  • Even though our Gospel reading says, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” 
    • yet oddly he had remained out of town during the days of his friend’s illness and death. 
  • He could have gone but delayed instead. 
  • When he finally makes the trip,
    • Martha says, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 
  • Those are hard words, words to cut into the soul. 
  • Martha sends for her sister Mary who says, “Where were you!” 
  • As the psalm puts it, God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

When Jesus sees the tears of Mary and the friends who surrounded her, he “becomes disturbed and deeply troubled.” 

  • This is a picture of Jesus we do not ordinarily see. 
  • The famous words that follow are unlike any others in the Gospels: 

“And Jesus wept.”

Jesus was not indifferent toward death or toward his loved ones, not at all. 

  • But his tears make Mary and Martha’s question still more poignant. 
    • “You love us and you loved him; why did you not come to us when he was still alive, when you could have saved him?” 
  • I think many of us are tempted to ask God that same question when a loved one dies. 

Look back at the beginning of Sunday’s Gospel to find the answer. 

  • Jesus told the disciples, “this illness of my friend is not going to end in death.” 
  • What? It isn’t? Lazarus is dead! 
  • And then we see Jesus’ re-arrangement of human values. 
  • “This is happening for the Glory of God,” he tells them.

He is saying that he knows this is hard for them to comprehend. 

  • That was why he has to show them in the flesh 
    • that even sorrow and death are immersed in God’s always gentle love. 
  • They are like flowers sprouting out of an “earth” which is love. 
  • The glorious love of God is the foundation of everything else. 
  • Every other love gets its growth from God’s love. 
  • Even life gets its life from God’s love. 

So Jesus calls out in a loud voice, calls to the love where Lazarus’ soul is resting even in the midst of death and decay. 

  • He calls to God’s compassionate love. 
  • Lazarus now is born again.
  • Out of the tomb he walks.

And so Jesus is right. 

  • Lazarus’ illness does not lead to final death. 
  • We usually have it backwards. 
  • We always think of love as an emotion that springs from the fact that we are alive. 
  • But the opposite is true. 
  • Life is a condition that springs from the fact that we are rooted in God’s love. 
  • This love is the real earth and real ground. 
  • When life ends, we are drawn back into love’s rich soil. 

Jesus cast his voice into this fertile ground when he said, “Lazarus, come out!” 

  • And love, stronger than life or death, gladly obeyed, letting earthly life be there again. 
  • The cross is referred to in advance here. 
  • Jesus’ own death and resurrection are foretold. 
  • Very soon Jesus will have to trust in his own words, that his suffering “will not end in death,” death of his oneness with the Father. 
  • “It would be happening for the Glory of God.”

Trust love. Life has its roots there. 

From today’s Ezekiel reading:

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. 

Reflection:

Throughout the world our Church has been seriously damaged by the clerical sexual abuse scandals. At this Eucharist we implore our Creator God to restore our dead and wounded parts to new life; to breathe the Spirit into us, as God promises to do today through the prophet Ezekiel

So we ask ourselves: 

  • Have I prayed for the healing of the victims of sexual abuse in the Church?
  • Have I intensified my prayers this Lent for the healing of the Church from this scandal?

Communion antiphon:
All who live and believe in me will never die, says the Lord.

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