Sunday V of Lent
Ez 37,12-14 : http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9asrxgbe.htm
The Gospel of John speaks of signs that the Lord performed in the course of his ministry and preaching. They are efficacious signs that prepare his contemporaries to welcome him as Messiah and to believe that in him the very God is working upon earth. At the same time, these signs draw the attention of people of every age to what is central in the proclamation of the Gospel.
The singular episode recalled in this Sunday’s liturgy invites us to go to the root of our faith in Christ. It has ever been that man’s great fear is death, often represented in disturbing images and in every case perceived as something inexorable and mysterious. In the Roman world, with its reserve and fear - as found on many Roman sarcophagi of the imperial age - represented the journey beyond with a door firmly shut, beyond which one could not see.
Jesus wants to respond to this need for meaning and significance that every man looks for in his own life. Death is no longer a wall against which we have to beat sooner or later, but it is but a phase of transformation, one amongst many that accompanies the journey of our life, a path between the earthly and the heavenly life. Christ has thrown open the door of the pagans and has shown us the road to follow.
The drama of Lazarus is then proposed as an image of the destiny of every man, for whom death is firstly a defeat, after which life triumphs. It is, of course, only a sign. For the reality one must look to Easter and the experience of the Risen One. Lazarus, in fact, is not risen but brought back to life, and for this reason his experience is ‘only’ a sign of something much greater that is yet to come. If the gift of life of which Jesus speaks were to be merely a “return to life” for Lazarus, we could feel ourselves taken for fools, for after years and decades Lazarus must surely have died, as we all do. But Jesus’ gift is something other. It is that of His life, given for love of every man. Eternal life in the house of the Father, where he has gone to prepare us a place.
But if the gift of which Jesus speaks is indeed eternal life, it must be present already amongst us in some manner. It must be possible to experience it in some immediately manner - the “hundredfold here below” that Jesus promised to he who will leave all to follow him. Eternal life in the present is not merely an interior experience or a figure of speech. It is instead that basic peace which does not lessen in difficulty and sadness, because it knows that Christ is near, that he is present. This is the reality we can cultivate by staying near to him, through the sacraments and prayers, through lived charity, through going out beyond our borders towards others, as the Pope often invites us to do.
That eternal life, because it is true life, is understood by living it. It is tasted by being transformed into the small things of the everyday without limiting ourselves by excuses and good intentions. The greatness of the gist that Jesus offers is the openness of whoever tires to live as a Christian. There are no particular qualifications. Jesus has never said, “Come and I will teach you everything you need to know”. Instead he says, “Come, follow me”, “Come and see”.
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, it is no harm to ask ourselves how well we have lived this season: if we have appreciated and prepared ourselves to welcome the gift of the Resurrection at Easter. We can think of our lives as like a wardrobe, full of boxes and packages, in which room will soon have to be found for a very great package. This time has been one for spring cleaning, of arranging the boxes of our duties, our desires, our daily imperfections, so as to make space the gift of the Resurrection and new life. We can ask ourselves if we have welcomed the invitations Pope Francis has made to us to prayer, to regular confession, and to the daily meditation of a short extract of the Gospel. Our destiny is great - eternal life - but the journey is made of such modest steps of the everyday.
Let us contemplate this God with trustfulness, who is so near to us in Jesus. He not only came to share our flesh, he was also “deeply moved” before the pain of the loved ones and neighbours of Lazarus before the experience of his death. Even today, Jesus never ceases to be moved by the pain of the world. His response is to welcome us into communion with Him and to the solidarity and closeness of his disciples. Let is joyfully welcome the invitation Jesus makes to us to be close to those who suffer and to make present by our lives His eternal life.