It seems that we have a part to play in creating a culture of life and resurrection. We must unbind one another from our fears and doubts about the last enemy, death. We must now “see that the world is bathed in light” and allow others to enjoy the same seeing—through our lived life.
– Fr. Richard Rohr
You can find the readings for the fifth Sunday of Lent here.
If you are looking for better readings for the fifth Sunday of Lent you will find them here.
The scripture scholar will tell you that the theme of Jesus’ own death and resurrection is interwoven into the story of the raising of Lazarus. His passing through death to life is a sign of something even greater. To believe in Jesus does not only mean believing He is the Messiah in a future sense, rather it means something more present. To believe in Jesus is to trust his power over life and death in the now, in this very moment. Marcus Borg tells us that to believe in Jesus is to trust that “Jesus substituted a different blueprint for the life of the community: ‘Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate’ (Luke 6:36). Moreover, this directive was intended for the earthly life of the people of God. Jesus’ intention was the transformation of his people in the face of a historical crisis.”
Alright then, our modern take is to transform our communities through the teachings of Jesus. First we must trust that the power of Jesus will manifest itself today through our compassion. Do you believe in Jesus? Not some distant dusty historical figure from the past or some salvific monarch in some utopian future, but a Jesus who has the power over life and death in the present moment.
St. Augustine told us: “Let each one give heed to his own soul: in sinning he dies: sin is the death of the soul.” In his lesson St. Augustine uses three stories from the Gospels where the raising from the dead can explain how God raises our souls from the death of sin. I do not espouse the whole “death of the soul through sin” metaphor as it serves no useful purpose in our Church today. Augustine, however, was able to draw a simple analogy that we can use if we provide a modern context. It is not sin that separates us from God, but lack of faith. It is not the resurrection of the soul we long for, but the “hidden power of faith” inside each of us.
Although some might say “But father, Soloman didn’t lose his faith, he believed in God and was able to recite the Bible”… “Yes, it’s true, but to have faith does not mean to be able to recite the Creed. You can recite the Creed having lost faith.”
– Pope Francis I (speaking on how Solomon pursued his own passions, weakened his faith and turned to idolatry)
The first of the three Augustine stories is found in Mark 5:21-43 We find Jesus raising from the dead the daughter of Jarius. In this story Mark has Jesus saying the words “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” As Augustine explains the girl was lying dead in the house, and thus our sin is concealed from view. Our unspoken thoughts can weaken or faith. Even though we have not acted upon those thoughts the lack of compassion weakens our faith. On February 13, 2014 Pope Francis I “encouraged all present to pursue God rather than their own passions.” It is not too late for God to resurrect our faith.
The second story is found in Luke 7: 11-17 and we find Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead. The widow’s son is already outside the gates of town and Augustine explains that our sin is now out in the open but not quite to the tomb. When our lack of compassion lead us to actions we can be uncharitable in pursuit of the idol we have created. Pope Francis I tells us “that there are those who practice the faith who “think they’re wise; they know everything. … They’ve become foolish and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God with an image: myself, my ideas, my comforts.” Although you may have acted without compassion, it is still not too late for God to resurrect our faith.
The third story is found in John 11: 1-55 and this is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus. To Augustine, this is where our sin is not just out in the open but is habitual. Lazarus was in the tomb for four days. Habitual actions take on a life of their own and begin to define who we are. We can’t possibly give them up now and will defend them to the death. Pope Francis I explains “the way of the Lord: it is to worship God, to love God above all things and to love your neighbour. It’s so simple, but so difficult! This can only be done with grace. Let us ask for this grace”. Even if our lack of compassion has led to a lifetime of uncharitable actions it is never too late for God to resurrect our faith. That is the lesson Augustine showed in the story of raising Lazarus.
About a century ago, Catholic job-seekers were routinely confronted with signs reading, “No Catholics need apply.” Now, it seems administrators in some Catholic schools are prepared to post signs that say, “No gay people need apply.”
– Marianne Duddy-Burke
This Sunday as we prepare for Easter and work on resurrecting our weakened faith we have before us a troubling Catholic form of idolatry. Marianne Duddy-Burke has explained that in Ohio and Hawaii Catholic schools are requiring teachers to sign contracts that discriminate against people who do not fit the image created by administrators who “believe they know everything.” They have exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God with an image of their own making, themselves, their ideas, their comforts. This is what happens when our weakened faith allows room for idolatry.
Perhaps you have not been compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate and have unspoken thoughts that have weakened your faith. Love your neighbor, it is so simple and yet too difficult. It is not too late to resurrect your faith and turn your thoughts away from your own passions to focus on God. Augustine has shown us that even if your uncharitable habitual actions have defined you for many years, it is not too late. Lazarus was in the tomb for four days and Jesus raised him. Take courage and make reparations for your past actions. Humbly give alms and turn toward God. This is, after all, Lent.
I will end with a prayer by Pope Francis I:
“May the Word of God, powerful, guard us on this path,” he said, “and not permit that we end up in the corruption that leads us to idolatry.”