Published on February 13, 2014
Welcome to our Bible Study 5th Sunday of Lent A 6 April 2014 In preparation for this Sunday’s Liturgy In aid of focusing our homilies and sharing Prepared by Fr. Cielito R. Almazan, OFM
1st reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14 12 Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! 14 I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. The focus is on bringing the dead back to life.
The reading is re-indented for easier understanding. 1st reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14 12 Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! 14 I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
1st reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14 12 Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! 14 I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. Commentary Ezekiel is a prophet of the Babylonian Exile (586-539 BC). He speaks on behalf of God to the Israelites in exile. Using a figure of speech, God promises: His purpose is indicated in vv.13 and 14. “I will open your graves…” (vv.12 and 13). “You will know that I am the Lord.” Opening of graves and having them rise from them means bringing them back to the land of Israel. To settle in Israel is the dream of each Israelite in exile. God concurs with that dream. The last line of the reading indicates God’s determination to fulfill his promise. He will do it.
Reflections on the 1st reading God desires life. He wants us to live in freedom, not in exile. God wants us to settle down in our own homeland. God wants us to live where we can practice our faith and culture without tiptoeing, without being subjected to the restrictions of a dominant power. God destroys structures that entomb us (kill us), immobilize and paralyze us from rendering what is due to God and to our fellow humans beings.
Resp. Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 R. (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! 2 Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. 3 If you, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? 4 But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered. 5 I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in his word. 6 More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD. 7 For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; 8 And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
Resp. Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 R. (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! 2 Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. 3 If you, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? 4 But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered. 5 I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in his word. 6 More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD. 7 For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; 8 And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities. Commentary The psalm is a psalm of lament. In vv.1-2, the psalmist prays to God that he may listen to him. In vv.3-4, we know what the psalmist is asking for: forgiveness of his iniquities. In vv.5-6, the psalmist expresses his high quality trust in the Lord. Vv.7-8 affirm God as merciful and kind, also a redeemer, a forgiving God of Israel.
Reflections on the Psalm God is a forgiving and merciful God. We can trust in him. God has a big capacity to forgive. He can forgive us, provided we humbly approach him, out of the depths (of our hearts).
2nd reading: Romans 8:8-11 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. The focus is on the Spirit of God.
2nd reading: Romans 8:8-11 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. Commentary The reading is about living in the Spirit of God. At the outset, the topic seems to be how to please God as announced in v.8. In v.9, the author identifies his audience as living in the Spirit, not in the flesh. These are Christians in Rome, who have learned how to live according to their baptismal vows. They belong to Christ because they have his Spirit. His Spirit is alive in them because Christ is in them-v.10 They will also resurrect like Christ, who once was dead- v.11 The Spirit brings us back to life, although we die because of sin (living in the flesh).
Reflections on the 2nd reading With the Spirit of God, we can please God. St. Paul declares that we can please God because the Spirit of God lives in us. The opposite of living in the Spirit is living in the flesh, which is living in sin. We can never please God if we live in the flesh. The Spirit of God makes possible our future resurrection. Are we living in the Spirit of God? Are our lives pleasing to God (and to people)?
Gospel reading: John 11:3-7,17, 20-27, 33-45 Please read the text along with the commentary, slide by slide. Commentary 3 The sisters of The gospel reading revolves around the Lazarus sent word death of Lazarus. to Jesus, saying, "Master, the one you But first, in v.3, Lazarus gets sick. His sisters inform Jesus of his condition. love is ill." 4 When Jesus heard this he The attentive reader will make a conclusion that Lazarus and Jesus are said, "This illness is good friends. not to end in death, but is for the glory of “The one you love is ill.” God, that the Son of For Jesus, Lazarus is not just an ordinary man out there. God may be glorified Jesus has special feelings for Lazarus. through it." In v.4, Jesus interprets the illness of Lazarus. The illness is not to end in death, but for God’s glorification and that of the Son of God.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." V.5 indicates the special relationship and affection of Jesus to Lazarus and his 2 sisters. In v.6, Jesus buys time. He does not go to Lazarus right away. He waits for two days to pass before he acts on his plan (which he announced in v.4) In v.7, Jesus now acts. He invites his disciples to go with him. The house of Lazarus is in Judea (as if Jesus is somewhere in Galilee or Samaria). The preceding verses indicate that Jesus was just in Jerusalem, which is part of Judea.
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." V.17 indicates the length of time Lazarus stays in the tomb (to highlight the miracle of Jesus). V.20 portrays two contrasting reactions to the coming of Jesus. Martha goes to meet him. (active) Mary sits at home. (passive) They are still mourning. In vv.21-22, Martha converses with Jesus and expresses her belief in his extraordinary powers, through his prayers.
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." 24 Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." 25 Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." In v.23, Jesus assures Martha of the resurrection of his brother. Martha has no difficulty with this. She believes in the resurrection on the last day. V.24 In vv.25-26, Jesus reveals something new: “I am the resurrection and the life.” “Everyone who believes even if he dies, will live.” In v.27, Martha affirms her belief in Jesus, not just as the resurrection and the life, but also as The Messiah The son of God The one coming into the world (son of man)
33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." 35 And Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him." In v.33, Jesus is touched at the weeping of Martha and the Jews. He is affected by their crying and mourning. In v.34, Jesus asks where they buried him. The response: “Come and see.” (his own response in John 1,39, when he was asked where he was staying). In v.35, Jesus weeps. The Jews interpret his weeping correctly. V.36
37 But some of them said, "Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?" 38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" In v.37, other people, who had witnessed him heal the blind man, ask a question. They expect him to do another miracle. At this, Jesus again feels something inside. So, he goes to the tomb. V.38 Now, Jesus begins to perform a miracle by asking that the stone be taken away. V.39 Martha reacts. There is no need to open. It is smelly by now. Jesus insists on what he is going to do and Martha must now see the glory of God because she herself has believed in him. V.40 Jesus does not forget what he has promised her upon his arrival.
41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. 42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." 45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. The people obey him. V.41 In vv.41b-42, Jesus prays to his Father in the hearing of the crowd. Previously, Martha expressed her belief that God listens to his prayer (v.22). Now, finally, Jesus performs a miracle by crying out aloud commanding Lazarus to come out. V.43 The dead man obeys. V.44 His physical appearance is described and Jesus commands that he be untied. V.45 indicates people’s response: they began to believe in him.
Commentary/Reflections on the gospel reading Jesus is powerful. He can bring the dead to life. It is also a movement of the people from non-belief, (they were just bystanders without expectations), to belief in Jesus. The gospel reading is an invitation for us to believe that Jesus is our savior, he is the messiah and the one through whom we can give glory to God. We should not be threatened by his presence. Jesus has the ability to make friends with us. He can also be emotional, when people are in grief. Jesus is also a human being, not just a powerful divine being.
Tying the 3 readings and the Psalm The first reading talks about the coming back to life of the Israelites (back to the land of Israel). The psalm affirms God’s forgiveness to a trustful and humble contrite heart. The second reading talks about the Spirit of God giving life to us. The gospel readings talks about Lazarus coming back to life, made possible by Jesus.
How to develop your homily / sharing Fr. Fernando Suarez is known as a faith healer who could bring the dead to life. True or not, the dead coming back to life is something unusual. This imagery, whether taken literally or figuratively, is used by Ezekiel to portray God’s plan to bring the exiles back to the promised land. It is also used by the evangelist to solicit faith in Jesus to glorify God.
In this season of Lent, we are asked to rise from our own deaths. We die when we live in sin. The Israelites die because they abandon their monotheistic faith and go after wooden and molten idols. They are entombed in the Exile, as punishment, unable to serve God in the Temple of Jerusalem. This is how Ezekiel looks at the whole situation of Israel during the Exilic Period. Through the exilic prophet Ezekiel, God announces the end of their punishment.
When we live in sin (we die), we cannot do anything. We cannot live to the full. We are entombed and paralyzed. We are confined to our own fears and apprehensions. We are afraid people will come and get us for the injustices we have done to them. Sin is unfaithfulness in relationships, forgetfulness in fulfilling obligations, making people wait (justice delayed, justice denied) for a long time, being inconsiderate, insensitive, greed, pride, etc.
The second reading would define sin as living in the flesh. Living in the flesh is a satisfaction of our inordinate and earthly desires, base instincts, unable to transcend vanity. Living in the flesh is a life of vices, compulsions, addictions, and uncontrolled emotions. Living in the flesh brings us to death. Living in the Spirit makes us live, even if we die physically, we will live. Living in the Spirit makes our lives pleasing to God. It is being faithful to our vocation as baptized children of God, turning away from sin and living in the Spirit of Christ. It is living out our dignity as redeemed human beings.
The gospel does not attribute sin to the death of Lazarus. The whole story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus portray that they are good friends of Jesus. Jesus is emotionally attached to them, who are not just ordinary disciples and believers of Jesus. Out of their developed friendship, Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. In doing so, Jesus exerts tremendous energy to call on God. In a loud voice and deep emotions, Jesus addresses himself to the dead man, who now comes back to life. The miracle is to make us listeners and readers to believe in Jesus and to glorify God.
In this season of Lent, we must focus our attention to Jesus who calls us to life. He exerts a lot of effort to invite us to join in his inner circle of friends and to praise God always. In this season of Lent, our conversion must be to move from thinking only of the self (selfish desires), to a deeper communion (friendship) with Jesus. We move from sin (living in the flesh) to grace (living in the Spirit). We move from living like dead, to a life dedicated to giving life to others.
The eucharist is a life-giving sacrament. In the eucharist, Jesus infuses his Spirit upon us, his friends, to give us life. The eucharist is a tangible sign that Jesus is giving himself totally to us in order to bring us to life.
Our Context of Sin and Grace Vices: drinking, smoking, compulsive buying Sexual abuse Rape Graft and corruption Manipulation No accountability Bribery RH Bill Pro-Life Movements Care for the Environment Spiritual renewals, retreats Seminars on family life, child rearing, parenting Decent burial of the dead
Signs of the Times War Ivory Coast Phil Senate Investigations leading to nowhere?
You may use this for your homily.
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