5th Sunday of Lent (March 13, 2016)

5th Sunday of Lent (March 13, 2016)


I have a close friend [true story] who is the president of a pre-12 Catholic school system.  It’s a small school, and unfortunately it tends to struggle in the marquee sport of football.  Last fall, I was watching the local news one night and noticed that they had once again gotten pounded by their most-disliked rival.  I texted my sympathies to my friend, and he replied, “Another little piece of me died!!!!!”  This might be a touch over-dramatic, perhaps, but what about in our own life? 


What really strikes deep within us that makes it feel like a part of us has died?  The loss of someone we love?  A hurt or broken relationship?  What about times we feel rejected, unaccepted, or unappreciated; times when we feel lonely, unsupported, or uncared for; times when we feel frustrated, defeated, like nothing is going right or working out for us; times that we feel like we’re just not good enough; times we have to come to terms that we just can’t do the things we used to?  What about times that we’re stuck in shame?  What about the times we’re separated from God through our sinfulness?  All of these things can leave us feeling like a little piece of us has died…or maybe even a big piece.


Our reading from the prophet Ezekiel is the end of a passage in which God leads Ezekiel to a broad valley filled with dry bones.  The Lord says to him, “these bones are the whole house of Israel! They are saying, ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.’” [Ez 37:11]  But we have these wonderful words from God: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back…I will put my spirit in you that you may live…thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.” 


In the Gospel, Jesus says of His friend Lazarus, “This illness is not end in death, but is for the glory of God.”  He comes to the tomb, tells them to take away the stone, and in a loud voice He cries out, “Lazarus, come out!”  And the dead man came out.  They untied him and let him go.  (You know, if I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes the sick/dry/dead part of me actually seems to like or want to stay stuck in sadness, failure, rejection, heartbreak, bitterness, sin, and whatever else. It’s crazy.) 


As Bishop Robert Barron writes as part of his Lenten reflection series this year, “When things are dead, we bury them away, we hide them. When we feel spiritually dead, we lock ourselves up in the darkness of our own anxiety and egotism and fear. But there is a power, a divine power, sent into this world whose very purpose is to break through all such stones.”  He says, “‘Lazarus, come out!’ Are there any words more beautiful and stirring in the whole New Testament? From whatever grave we are lying in, Jesus calls us out.”


And so, dear brothers and sisters, is Jesus calling out to you and me today.  From losses and hurts, from failure and rejection, from anger and resentment, from isolation and despair, from sin and shame, He says “Come out!”  This story of the raising of Lazarus shows that Jesus doesn’t just love us from a distance but draws close to us, even in death.  He is truly present today in a special way through His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the bread of life and the chalice of salvation that continue to bring us to share in the glory of His Cross and Resurrection.  Let us allow the grace of God to pull us out of whatever inside us seems like it’s died, put His Spirit within us anew, and fill us again with His life, so that we may be truly alive.