V Sunday of Lent: “There is more to life! Come out of the tomb.”

March 26, 2023

A few minutes ago, in the prayer that opened our time together today, we prayed to be unbound and set free (not to be twisted in spiritual and personal knots).

The old burial customs of the ancient peoples wrapped our bodies in strips of cloth.  There were no such things as caskets.  Our bones would remain together and the cloth would absorb the liquids of our body.

Today’s story of Lazarus walking out of a tomb is extraordinary, although there are frequent stories of someone declared dead officially, who has exhibited signs of life once they have been taken to a mortuary.

According to today’s story, Lazarus is  dead, and the story pictures an impatient Jesus shouting for him to walk out of his tomb.  It was a shock for everyone who witnessed it.  For those gathered there, never had they seen anything like it before.

Yesterday, I visited a couple of friends my age, parishioners of St. Bonaventure’s, whose 44 year-old son died suddenly.  He had had a long history of alcohol and drugs.  At family celebrations of weddings and baptisms, I sat next to him always.  Handsome, brilliant, a good worker, he was now clean.  But, as often happens, too much physical damage had been done.  Matthew is his name.

Jesus did not rescue him like the man in today’s gospel; yet Jesus did rescue him, now clean and sober, into his eternal life.

That is Jesus’ simple message to us today as we approach Palm Sunday next week.

“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.”  Our trust and most real self does not die.  We move on into something so new that it is hard for us to comprehend.

This is Jesus’ final and stupendous promise, for which we have only his promise.  Its only proof is Jesus’ own resurrection, all of which happens only as we leave this present experience of life.

About the man born blind in last week’s Gospel, when questioned “why [he gave the man sight]”, [Jesus] said “so that works of God might be made visible through him.”  These kind of extraordinary experiences in life are gifts to help know something very important.  Jesus will call us out of our tombs!

Three weeks ago, Jesus called the woman at the well to worship his Father in spirit and truth, and to rely more on a personal relationship with his Father than on the forms and rituals of official rituals.

Four weeks ago, we heard the Father of Jesus remind us and invite us to listen to his beloved son.

On the first Sunday of Lent, Jesus invited us to consider and face all the temptations that distract our attention and interfere with our relationships to Jesus.

So, what have we discovered about ourselves and our relationship with Jesus?

I am still standing there.  I have heard the “Lazarus, come out!” Now what?  That is what we have to discover in the next 2 weeks!

The Prophet Ezekiel reminds us to remember the promise that God made to him: “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”  

St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “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.”

So we wait for all of this to come true!

When I was a young child in Catholic school, our Catholic church went overboard in making us become scrupulous about our sins.

Our Psalm 30 today reminds us that “with the Lord is mercy and fullness of redemption,” and the inspired writer of the prayer put his own prayer in the Psalm: “I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word,” and his own understanding and recognition: “For with the Lord is kindness and with him plenteous redemption.” So, it is not a spiritual theory.  It is real.  Jesus wants us to know [that] today we stand at the entrances of our tomb and Jesus calls: “Come out.  There’s a new and better life to live.”

It begins today and every day- Jesus says that he will help us live that better, fuller and more meaningful life.

“Come out from the tomb.”  There is more to life.

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