5th Sunday of Lent. March 26, 2023.
Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-44
Live the resurrected life today.
There is no doubt that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two siblings a lot, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” We sense this love in the message of the sisters to Him, “The one whom you love is sick.”
There is also no doubt that Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus and prevent his death. Both Martha and Mary expected Jesus to come and heal the dying Lazarus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Even the skeptical crowd expected this too, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
But Jesus chose to allow His dear friend, Lazarus, to die first. Why? He wanted to do at that moment what was most glorifying to the Father, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (Jn 11:1-44)
Evidently what was more glorifying to both the Father and Son then was not the immediate healing of His sick friend. The Father’s glory at that moment was not to meet the expectations of Lazarus’ mourning relatives. The Father’s greater glory lay in Lazarus’ experience of a new and better life with God and with others from the dark and lifeless isolation of the grave.
Jesus once said, “As the Father has loved me, so I love you.”(Jn 15:9) The depth of the Father’s love for the Son was not shown in preventing Him from suffering and death but in raising Him from the grave, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that, we all are witnesses.”(Acts 2:32) Likewise, God the Father’s greatest desire for us is to experience that newness of life with God now in this life and in the life to come. In His undying love for us, God desires that we live the resurrected life even now.
When Jesus declared, “I am the Resurrection and the life,” He was indicating that, in Him, the resurrection is no longer just an event that we look forward to or just recall. The resurrection is now an ever-present reality made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can experience resurrection every day when we receive the gift of a new and better life with God and for Him no matter what the past has been.
There are many ways in which we too can live a resurrected life daily. We live a resurrected life when we repent from our sins and return to the love of God and show this love in action. We are resurrected people when we have such an intense love for God that we keep God’s commandments without compromise, forgive others, spend more time in fervent prayer, serve others selflessly, labor to bring souls to Jesus by sharing our faith with all, etc.,
This new and better life with God and for God is what God desires the most for us at any time. That is why He has given us His Spirit. Without the Spirit of God living within us and inspiring us, we will live in the flesh and experience spiritual death and hopeless grave-like existence, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We can only be alive and fruitful in God by the power of His Spirt, “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:8-11) The truly resurrected life is impossible without possessing the Spirit of God.
We must remember this today when it seems we have forgotten the disastrous personal and social consequences of living according to the flesh. When we unrestrictedly indulge in the desires of the flesh, we are spiritually dead, completely unable to bear the fruits of personal holiness and perform acts pleasing to God. We cannot evangelize others and bring them to Christ. We lack the spiritual power to bring about converts or to even inspire holy and fervent religious and priestly vocations. The Church is spiritually impotent when we are living in the flesh while ignoring the new and better life with God that the Spirit is always inspiring in us.
One sign of living in the flesh is that we do not care about pleasing God. We are bent on pleasing ourselves at any cost. Those who live in the flesh constantly clamor for a new morality and a new Church. They cannot accept God’s absolute right and authority over truth, human life, and morals. They must constantly change everything to meet their ever-changing tastes and whims, even attempting to change their gender.
On the other hand, those who live by the Spirit are constantly being drawn closer to God and to please Him in all things. They want to grow in their love and service of God, to put more love into all that they do and endure for Him. They are not focused on changing truths or reality but on changing their lives for the greater glory of God. Consequently, they have that strong and joyful hope of final resurrection because they are choosing to live the resurrected life at each moment. Unless we too live a resurrected life now, our hope for final resurrection will dwindle.
If we feel that we have not been faithful to God as we had wanted to this Lenten season or that our past lives have been lived in the flesh and not in the Spirit, let the example of Lazarus give us hope. He was dead and completely unable to even do or beg for anything. He had been dead for four days. Yet, the commanding voice of Jesus was powerful enough to raise him from the dead. He could begin again his relationship with Jesus and his loved ones. He indeed lived as a witness to Christ, “On account of him (Lazarus), many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.”(Jn 12:10)
This voice of Jesus is also powerful today to bring us to deeper conversion and union with Him every day and to live accordingly for His glory. Jesus always loves us, in life and in death. His Spirit is also active in this life and in the next, drawing us closer to Him and inspiring us to live for Him. With Him and by His Spirit, a new and better life with God is always possible. If we hear His liberating voice and allow His Spirit to move us, we too can come out of our spiritual graves and begin to move from bad to good and to better in our relationship with Him.
Ever deeper conversion, living in stronger union with Christ every day, and living more completely for Him alone! This is the resurrected life. This is what Jesus wants for us the most and the only thing that would truly satisfy us in this life and in the life to come.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!