Allocutio March 2023

5th Sunday of Lent – Year A – 26/03/2023

By Fr. B Saliba

There is so much to do with life and death in our scriptures this weekend.  Spiritual life and death, physical life and death.  To begin, the prophet Ezekiel speaks of the opening of graves and the raising of the dead to new life through the spirit that will be put in them from God.  We must never underestimate the power of the Spirit in our lives.  It is what gives life to our souls, and therefore it is what our souls long for as the psalm speaks of today – my soul is waiting for the Lord – I count on his word.  My soul is longing for the Lord like watchman count on daybreak.

This is why in Romans it is said that people who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God.  Those who deny the spirit, who deny God and his goodness are ultimately rejecting a relationship with Him and therefore do not have life in them.  Those who embrace God, welcome the spirit that is the life-giving force of the soul, allow God to make His home in them.  People like this, even though they sin and can often times be cut off from a relationship with God are quick to reconcile to God through the sacrament of confession. 

This can only be made possible through the lifesaving action of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.  The saving power of God is best seen in our Gospel today.  This is quite possibly the greatest of Jesus’ miracles – the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  It is as though this miracle is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the Jews.  It is the one thing that Jesus does that provokes the Jewish opposition to him that will lead to his death.  Healing a deaf or blind person, multiplying loaves and fishes, walking on water etc were bearable – but to raise a person from the dead?  This had even more people start to follow him and look at him as more than just a prophet.

If you want to be even more prepared for the climax of this Lent – this Gospel is the one that will prepare us for Holy Week.  So the obvious question becomes, why on earth did Jesus wait 2 days before tending to Lazarus.  Martha herself says ‘Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’  People believed in Jesus ability to heal, but to raise someone on the fourth day – four days meant Lazarus was well and truly dead – would be something that truly solidifies the apostles belief – the belief of the people.  The people who were not impressed were the high priests – the pharisees.  Tensions were specifically high around this time of Passover because Jews were always anticipating the coming of the messiah around Passover time.  The Messiah was there and they didn’t want to admit it – they didn’t want the people to believe it and so this one man, Jesus Christ needed to be crucified so they could continue to control the people and their religious customs.

This was not news to Jesus – for this is why he came – by his action of raising Lazarus from the dead, it would mean this event would be the beginning of the end.  The persecution was a means to his crucifixion and death so that he could reconcile all of us to the Father in heaven.  The person Jesus raises from the dead is his good friend Lazarus – not a stranger, not an enemy, but a man he loves.  Jesus, knowing he was going to the cross, raises Lazarus from the dead and in doing so will eventually lay his life down for Lazarus at the hands of the Jews.  In the scriptures Jesus says – greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  By giving Lazarus life, Jesus is going to be killed – he is living out this teaching – there is no greater love than this.

In Jesus’ passion death and resurrection, we as the children of God become Justified.  This is sometimes where our protestant brothers and sisters get confused.  Some of us Catholics get confused and think that because Jesus died for us we are automatically saved should we believe in him.  It is possible to lose this salvation – this is why we as Catholics do not use the language “saved” – rather we say we have been “justified” as we hear it in Romans today – which means that the relationship with God has been made right again – Jesus has now made it possible for us to share in God’s love for eternity in heaven – but we must always remember it is possible to lose this.  The way we can get it back is by going to confession – to confess your sins, do penance and to try and not sin again.  This sacrament of God’s great mercy gives us an opportunity to say sorry – it is not possible to just say sorry to God on your own – if this is your mentality you are not thinking with the Church and what she teaches – Jesus institutes the sacrament of reconciliation for us to use.  To not use it is to deny you are a sinner or to say I don’t believe in the sacrament.  More on that in the coming months through our Adult faith formation.

We must remember my brothers and sisters that as we approach this Holy Week – it is the Lord we must seek – not our own strength, or reliance on another person.  We must seek out the Lord because it is through Him that we find forgiveness – and once we have found it and have been healed – it is the Spirit that will live in us, it is the spirit that will shine through us and help us and others believe Jesus when he says –