5th Sunday of Lent

03-24-2023Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian Manning

 Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary’s, 

Just a reminder that next weekend begins “Holy Week” with the Celebration of Palm Sunday. Palm will be blessed at the 4 PM Mass on Saturday and blessed Palm will be available at all the Masses. Extra additional blessed Palm will be available on the table in the elevator ground level lobby after all the Masses until Thursday at Noon or until all are taken. 

Time Change: Lenten Service for Ukraine: Praying for Peace (Sat, Mar 25 at 1:00pm) Note the revised start time of 1:00pm. Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church, 146 Forest Hills St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. Cardinal Sean O’Malley OFM Cap. and Bishop Mark O’Connell will be in attendance for the service. Parishioners are welcome to attend. 

So far in the scripture during this Lent, Jesus has been presented as the source of Living Water and also the Light of the World. In this weekend’s scripture, He is proclaimed as the Resurrection and the Life. Carefully the Gospel of John has been leading us toward this ultimate sign of Jesus. The various stories in the gospel passages about being raised from the sleep of death: the soldier’s daughter, the widow’s only son and similar do not appear in the Gospel of John. Instead the author John tells us a long version of the story of the raising of Lazarus. Although the story is about Lazarus, the main character, in fact, is Jesus.

Hidden for the most part in all the Gospels is the theme of the Resurrection of Jesus. We need to remember that the Gospels were first spoken stories which were proclaimed to the gathered communities of faith and then over time became oral tradition. Much later, these Gospel stories were written down for the benefit of distant communities. The Gospel stories inspired people to become alive in faith in Jesus Christ. 

In our passage this weekend, Jesus declared Himself the Resurrection and the Life. He certainly made this crystal clear for all of us. Jesus dramatically declared that those who believe in Him will come to possess life, even though they will physically die. He was informing everyone that physical death is not final. He was announcing that a believer who possesses life in Christ will live with Him now and will live with Him forever. We are to know that any person, who is one with Christ in life, will possess life through and beyond death. This is the reason why Jesus pointedly asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” Martha’s response symbolically represented the faith community of then. In a sense, she also spoke for us, confessing Him as Lord, Messiah, and Son of God. 

The first two readings today offer a set-up of the context of the Gospel of today. The reading from the prophet Ezekiel tells us about the resurrection of the body. We either learn or are reminded that there is nothing God cannot or will not do for the exiled Jewish people languishing in Babylon. Unfortunately we hear that they brought exile upon themselves, and it is also tied to the humiliation of the exile itself. We hear again how the actions of God stand to help a people who are fallen and desperate. The prophet describes at great length how much God will do. The simple quote “I have promised and I will do it” expressed everything succulently. The prophet Ezekiel is careful to always add this quote of Yahweh “You shall know that I am the Lord” after every awe-inspiring story of God’s aid. 

In the second reading Saint Paul identifies the “flesh” as a life outside of Jesus’ saving resurrection. Philosophically, the Jews did not conceive of humans as divided in two parts between body and spirit. Paul keeps it simple with the division of unredeemed (flesh) and redeemed (spirit). This helps to make sense of the expectation that are to live the new, redeemed life that is ours in baptism. 

The scriptures this weekend in many ways are about transformation, actually offering us the possibility of transformation of our self. This is far more than the physical resuscitation of Lazarus. our new life is a transformation, an entirely new way of being. This is where Christ will lead us, if we let him. Then we can say with Martha, “Yes, Lord, I do believe.” 

Father Brian