The 5th Sunday of Lent – 26 March 2023
Lectionary Readings: Ezek. 37:12-14; Ps. (129) 130; Rom. 8: 8-11; John 11:1-45
Theme: “I am the resurrection and the life”
The core of the readings for this Sunday is Jesus’ statement: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (v. 25), and the question to Martha which also applies to us today: “Do you believe this?” (v. 26) Hidden in the readings are promises made by God which require patient waiting urged on by faith and trust that knows that no matter how long God takes to achieve these promises they will always be fulfilled.
We look at the first reading from Ezekiel which gives God’s promises of return from the Babylonian exile. The LORD had already brought the prophet through the valley of bones which eventually came together, and the living spirit of God brought them back to life as a sign of what the LORD would do for the Israelites (Ezek. 37:1-10). Ezekiel was in Babylon in exile with the Israelite people who experienced dryness and depression away from Jerusalem. Psalm 137:1 “By the rivers of Babylon—/there we sat down and there we wept/ when we remembered Zion.” In this passage we read the language of promise: “Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people (v.12). The LORD promises this and brings it about when the Persians under king Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BCE and allowed the exiles to return home and rebuild the Temple and the city. This was all God’s doing – faithful to the promises made through the prophet.
We read the following in our Gospel narrative: “And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me.I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ ” (Vv. 41-42) As the LORD God worked through the prophet and Cyrus so also and even more God worked through Jesus – the Beloved Son God sent to be the Face of God.
Psalm 130, an Ascent Psalm (sung as the worshippers ‘ascended’ to Zion, the hill on which the Temple stood), sums up all three readings. There is a ‘cry’ to the God and Jesus to ‘raise up’ the Israelites and Lazarus. There is a time of waiting and trust. Israel of the past and we present today are encouraged: “O Israel, hope in the Lord!/ For with the Lord there is steadfast love,/and with him is great power to redeem./It is he who will redeem Israel/from all its iniquities.”
Jesus says to Martha and to all of us: “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (Vv.25-26 – John – written probably after 100 CE). What did Paul write about this in Romans (57-58 CE)? “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (V. 11)
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. We go back to the ‘core’ of today’s Gospel and the truth on which our faith is based: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Jesus asks us: “Do you believe this?” Is my life a testament to others that I believe this? In what ways?
Bibliography: Study Guide SG105 – Latter Prophets1 (Catholic Bible College, South Africa:2011); Study Guide SG107 – Psalms (Catholic Bible College, South Africa:2011; www.biblegateway.com NRSVACE
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, Bat Kol alumna 2008
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