Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent (Cycle A)
The raising of Lazarus of Bethany will always be a metaphor for us in this season of Lent, for just as Lazarus was raised from an untimely physical death to a new physical life, then we are through the power of the Spirit of the resurrection, also being raised from a spiritual death entrapped in the darkness of sin, to a new spiritual life crowned by conversion and faithful holiness.
Today’s Gospel reading gives us the poignant tale of a loved one who fell ill and died. Just as we are normally distressed at the sudden twists of fate in people we know, as their bodies pass from a state of health and growth to a state of deterioration and demise, so are we typically saddened when their souls are overwhelmed with temptation, and fall from a state of maturity and grace to a state of sin and corruption.
The prophets of our times, carrying the disturbing call for repentance, are warning us, “those walking according to the flesh cannot please God.” They insist for our sake, “our existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit”. We are consoled however, that we will be delivered from the “tombs” in which we were entrapped by our folly with the “flesh”, by the God who gives us his Spirit so we may live, “I am going to open your tombs; I shall bring you out of your tombs, my people; and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am God … when I put my spirit in you, and you live.” Though “the body is branded by death, as a consequence of sin”, the Spirit “who dwells within us” will “give life to our mortal bodies.”
A liberation from darkness to light, from death to life, from sin to holiness, can never be possible without the Spirit.
Our compassionate Lord who was equally distressed and saddened by the sorrows he felt around him at the loss of his friend, boldly ventured to demonstrate that the power of this Spirit who can overcome spiritual death, can also overcome physical death: The Spirit can and will choose to operate beyond though always optimally within the regenerative cycles of nature and the cosmos, if and when necessary. He proclaims, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory.” Therefore, the Spirit can and will prevail over everything and anything that will distract us from himself, more particularly, oppressive social structures “for there is no light in them.” The Spirit can and will bestow upon us the conviction to be responsible for the kingdom of justice and peace, and the strength to make it happen. The Spirit is and will always be the key to our eternity.
As followers of the Christ, we must believe in him in whom the Spirit lives; and to do what he did, so this same Spirit may live in us, too. “I am the resurrection. Whoever believes in me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Doing our part and giving our share for a better world, are in turn, the key to the Spirit.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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