Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Given the depths of the people’s despair, the Lord’s promise of restoration and life is all the more bold. That’s what the lector has to get across rhetorically. Make the last sentence stand out by pausing before it, then punch it out with utter confidence: “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”

Second Reading

Reading this to a congregation is challenging, especially where the sentences are long. Try to break up the long sentences into sense lines, pausing briefly where that will help the listeners follow. Vary your tone of voice to bring out the contrasts between life and death, spirit and flesh, righteousness and sin.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

When Israel was exiled in Babylon, Ezekiel had to to tell them that things were going to get even worse, that they’d become like a desert valley filled with dried bones. But after that, the Lord would revive them and breathe the Spirit into them again. This is the hopeful conclusion of that dire prophecy.

Second Reading

Saint Paul teaches that to be “in the flesh” is to try to earn God’s grace by our own merits, while being “in the spirit” means letting God give us that undeserved grace.

Gospel

In Saint John’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus starts the chain of events leading to Jesus’ death and resurrection. John uses the story to remind early converts of the life-and-death consequences of choosing to follow Jesus.

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Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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Ezekiel 37:12-14

Vision of Ezekiel (1630) by Francisco Collantes at Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain

Vision of the Dry Bones

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

This reading is intended to be a prophetic word of hope for the Israelites living in physical exile from their homeland and in spiritual exile from God. They feel God has abandoned them.

We listen to the final verses of Ezekiel’s famous ‘dry bones’ vision that God gives him while living in exile with his people in Babylon. The scene is one of complete devastation and desolation. The ground is covered with the bones of countless soldiers killed in battle. After bringing Ezekiel to this horrible scene, God asks him a startling question: “Son of Man, can these bones come to life?”

These prophetic verses are a challenging call to the people to believe that God will deliver them from the death of exile. Read in the context of Christian faith, one could understand these verses as a reference to personal, individual resurrection beyond bodily death. When this text is read today with Paul’s words to the Romans (8:11): “The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies,” we understand how comforting the fullness of Christian faith can be in the face of whatever darkness, defeat or disaster may strike us.

Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! — Ezekiel 37:13 (NAB)

Ps 130

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption

This is a cry to God from the depths of one’s being, a cry in which the psalmist puts his trust in God as he awaits forgiveness and deliverance.

Background:

This lament, a Penitential Psalm, is the De profundis used in liturgical prayers for the faithful departed. In deep sorrow the psalmist cries to God (Ps 130:1–2), asking for mercy (Ps 130:3–4). The psalmist’s trust (Ps 130:5–6) becomes a model for the people (Ps 130:7–8). The depths: Sheol here is a metaphor of total misery. Deep anguish makes the psalmist feel “like those descending to the pit” (Ps 143:7).   (Source: NAB notes).

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! — Ps 130:1 (NAB)

Romans 8:8-11

The Flesh and the Spirit

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Paul contrasts ‘life in the spirit’ with ‘life in the flesh.’ He reminds us that we are to live ‘in the spirit’ and not ‘in the flesh.’ This does not mean that we are to deny our human nature as flesh-and-blood creatures. When Paul uses the word ‘flesh,’ he is referring to that part of us that is not yet surrendered to God and transformed by grace, that part of us that continues to be self-centered and rebellious against God and his ways. When Paul uses the term ‘spirit,’ he is referring to that part of us that seeks to follow God and his ways over our sinful cravings. But we can only make such good choices because our spirit has been infused with the Holy Spirit at Baptism.

For Paul, the Spirit is the life force behind JesusResurrection and is the same Spirit who will raise our mortal bodies from death to life. Our incorporation into Christ at Baptism makes it possible for us to share in his victory over death.

John 11:1-45

The Raising of Lazarus (1857) by Léon Bonnat (1833–1922)

The Raising of Lazarus

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

In last week’s Gospel, Jesus declares himself“Light of the World” and he proves it by giving physical and spiritual sight to a blind man. This week, Jesus declares himself to be “The Resurrection and the Life” and proves it by raising a dead man from the sleep of death. The raising of Lazarus prefigures Jesus’ own hour of Death and Resurrection.

The great paradox of the story is that as Jesus gives life to Lazarus, the authorities begin to plan his death (vv 49-53). Jesus is condemned to death for being a life-giver. How strange and evil! We also notice again the struggle between light and darkness, belief and unbelief. Many come to believe in Jesus, but others recede into the darkness of unbelief.

This particular story gives us a beautiful blending of both the divinity and humanity of Jesus. We witness the human side of Jesus in his reaction to the death of his friend. As he ‘weeps’ and is ‘troubled in spirit’ the bystanders observe: “See how much he loved Lazarus.” We see the divinity of Jesus at work when he raises Lazarus from the tomb. The heart and center of this story is found in verses 25-26, in which Jesus declares: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life. Whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.”

When Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus, he is confronted by the reality of death and is ‘troubled in spirit.’ It seems Jesus is angered by the power and hold that death has over humanity. At the tomb, Jesus speaks three commands: “Take away the stone.” “Lazarus, come out.” “Untie him and let him go free.” By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus shows that he is more powerful than death. Of course the ‘life’ Jesus offers is much more than biological life; it is ‘eternal life’ that begins here and now as soon as we unite ourselves to Jesus. In John 5:28-30, Jesus says: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God…and shall live.” The raising of Lazarus actualizes this promise.

Reflection Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?

2. Name types of graves people can find themselves in today, e.g., grave of depression, grief and poverty. What can we do to lift ourselves out of a grave we may find ourselves in?

3. According to John’s Gospel, our three big enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil. The ‘flesh’ is that tendency in us to live life without reference to God and his ways. What causes us to sometimes live in the flesh and to ignore God and his ways?

4. At the grave of Lazarus, Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go free.” What can hold us bound (e.g., an addiction, resentment) so that we are prevented from living life as freely and as fully as God wishes for us? What can help us to get unbounded and go free?

5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

Call to Action

If you, a friend, neighbor, or co-worker are in a season of death (grief, depression, failure), be aware of and use the resources that can help one another. Name the things that may be keeping you bound at this time and stopping you from being fully alive. Decide on a step you can take to set yourself free.

Shared Prayer

Lord Jesus, you are the resurrection and the life, draw me away from fleshly desires that hinder me from hearing and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Closing Prayer

With Jesus, we pray:Father, we thank you for hearing us. Help us to go to the tombs in our lives so your Spirit can open our graves and raise us from them. Amen.

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Accompanying Each Other Out of Our Tombs

Krista Chinchilla Preaches for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

“What do we need to do to untie ourselves? What is it that keeps us bound? Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown or maybe the thought of leaving our comfort zone; maybe something else entirely. Once we liberate ourselves, we can then ask ourselves how we will accompany and advocate for those who are tied up in suffering.”

CATHOLIC WOMEN PREACH – March 29, 2020

Introduction to 5th Sunday of Lent Readings

EXCERPT — This Lenten season invites us to explore the meaning of life — our lives here and now and life after death. In a world where many have so little while a few have so much, we are called to embrace life as well as to ensure that precious resources are available for the most vulnerable. Mindful of the fragile balance in our earthly life, we place our faith in Christ’s resurrection and the promise of life everlasting upon death.

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


A Hope Which Never Dies

EXCERPT – When does hope die? When do we come to a situation where we can no longer imagine any future good? When do we reach a place when we look forward and all we can see is despair? For the followers of Jesus, the answer to these profound questions is “never.” Never do we believe that hope and goodness will be conquered by evil. Never do we believe that we come to the point where we can no longer look forward with some confidence. Never will hope die… We believe that God is opposed to the evil that surrounds us, and God has promised us an ultimate victory.

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


The Difference between the Gospel of John and the other Three Evangelists”

EXCERPT — 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 tell 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.

THE ORDER OF CARMELITESLectio Divina: Sundays of Lent


The Spirit’s Role in Our Lives

EXCERPT — Two of my favorite sayings are, “You’re not dead till you’re dead,” and, “Think outside the box; you’ll have eternity to be inside the box.” This Sunday’s readings focus on graves, the depths and death, but they really are about life. We all know people who are old before their time, people whose get-up-and-go got up and went, and people who act like the living dead. Many reasons exist for dispiritedness. And then we know people who are full of energy, who have a passion and zest for life, and who in the winter years of life remain ever green, ever hopeful, always enchanted with the gift of the moment. They have never lost the wonder and playfulness of the inner child who beckons them onward to new adventures and new relationships…Dare we allow the stones that encase and entomb the spirit be rolled away so that the spirit can be the life-giving force and transformative energy it is meant to be? No one is dead until they are dead, and life becomes interesting when lived outside the box.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTERMary M. McGlone, CSJ


The Women Who Followed Christ

EXCERPT — Martha and Mary epitomize faith in Christ. Even when faced with an unbearable loss, they are steadfast in their trust, and their faith is enhanced by their interactions with Christ. Martha articulates her faith in Jesus as the anticipated Messiah and Son of God. Mary’s wailing is evocative to her community and to Jesus, who is moved by her lamentation. Martha and Mary preach through their words and actions. We can learn much from these women who inspire us to maintain an unshakable faith, even during the darkest of hours.

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ (Jn 11:21, 32)

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


Release from the Tombs

EXCERPT — Jesusraising of Lazarus was a holding action. So were all his other miracles. Sickness and death were just postponed. But these miracles, like the quickened, sinewed bones rising before the pie-eyes of Ezekiel are also a promise. In our profession of faith, we are not asked to acquiesce in a fait accompli; we are asked to believe, to trust a promise made to us, that even though we die, we will come back to life in a love who is our resurrection. If we live and die in that belief, then with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, with our ancient wise ones, with our veterans tested in the prime of life, and with our vivacious young whose whole being is promise, nothing of our good and grace will be lost or forgotten in tombs.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ


Resurrection of the Body

EXCERPT — What are we to make of this testimony that we are destined, body and spirit, for life beyond death? How can we imagine such life eternal? What kind of a body will we have? Will we recognize ourselves and the people we have loved? — 2020 Reflections

CHICAGO CATHOLICFather Donald Senior, CP

THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS

Visit Doctrinal Homily Outlines for further commentary and catechetical connections between the Lectionary and the Church’s doctrine. The site also offers practical suggestions on how to live the Catholic faith in the midst of daily life.

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”

From the Homiletic Directory

The progressive revelation of the Resurrection

992 God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed: The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.540 One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.541

993 The Pharisees and many of the Lord’s contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?”542 Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who “is not God of the dead, but of the living.”543

994 But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”544 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.545 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,546 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,”547 the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.548

995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”549 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.

996 From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition.550 “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.”551 It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?

Raisings a messianic sign prefiguring Christ’s Resurrection

549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.

640 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise. Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter. The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”. This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.

646 Christ’s Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus’ power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ’s Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is “the man of heaven”.

The prayer of Jesus before the Raising of Lazarus

2603 The evangelists have preserved two more explicit prayers offered by Christ during his public ministry. Each begins with thanksgiving. In the first, Jesus confesses the Father, acknowledges, and blesses him because he has hidden the mysteries of the Kingdom from those who think themselves learned and has revealed them to infants, the poor of the Beatitudes. His exclamation, “Yes, Father!” expresses the depth of his heart, his adherence to the Father’s “good pleasure,” echoing his mother’s Fiat at the time of his conception and prefiguring what he will say to the Father in his agony. The whole prayer of Jesus is contained in this loving adherence of his human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father.

2604 The second prayer, before the raising of Lazarus, is recorded by St. John. Thanksgiving precedes the event: “Father, I thank you for having heard me,” which implies that the Father always hears his petitions. Jesus immediately adds: “I know that you always hear me,” which implies that Jesus, on his part, constantly made such petitions. Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; he is the “treasure”; in him abides his Son’s heart; the gift is given “as well.”

Our Present Experience of Resurrection

1002 Christ will raise us up “on the last day”; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:

And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead . . . . If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.559

1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”560 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”561 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”562

1004 In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering:

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? . . . . You are not your own; . . . . So glorify God in your body.563

The Eucharist and the Resurrection

1402 In an ancient prayer the Church acclaims the mystery of the Eucharist: “O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of the life to come is given to us.” If the Eucharist is the memorial of the Passover of the Lord Jesus, if by our communion at the altar we are filled “with every heavenly blessing and grace,”242 then the Eucharist is also an anticipation of the heavenly glory.

1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”243 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”244 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”245

1404 The Church knows that the Lord comes even now in his Eucharist and that he is there in our midst. However, his presence is veiled. Therefore we celebrate the Eucharist “awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,”246 asking “to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord.”247

1405 There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,”248 than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.”249

Viaticum, the Last Sacrament of the Christian

1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.

The Resurrection of the Body

989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.534 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

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.535

990 The term “flesh” refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.536 The “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body” will come to life again.537


SOURCES/CREDITS:
Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout. Images, videos, scripture verses, and other material which accompany Fr. Tobin’s text are curated by LectioTube.com. They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.

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