5th Sunday in Lent - The Turning Point

We are winding down our observance of the Holy Season of Lent - our time of preparation for the great feast of Easter. Lent can, and should be a solemn and moving experience for us. It should be a time to recall our Baptism, to renew our commitment to our faith and beliefs, to recognize once again our faults and weaknesses, to seek the Lord's forgiveness - and the forgiveness of others - and to become instruments of reconciliation and forgiveness for others. 

Traditionally, the Gospel for the last Sunday of Lent before Palm Sunday recounts the story of the raising of Lazarus - kind of a precursor of what we will experience with the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday. Resurrection is a core element of our Christian faith and it is one that requires some very definite commitments on our part. 

If we truly believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead, that he is alive, that he continues to live and work in and through those who believe in him, then we had better not linger too long in the garden, or weep too long at the tomb, or gaze too long at the crucifix. We had better not treat Jesus in our mind, in our prayer or in our attitudes as though he is a dead hero, or an object of theological study. We had better not bury him in history, or just remember his story as a fable or fairy tale. 

The Easter story is not only an account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; the story of Easter is also a living, continuing account of humanity striving to rise and live life to the full. The Easter message is not only about the Risen Lord, but also about humanity for whom he had died and been raised to life. 

Resurrection takes place in real life situations... with real people... not only our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or employers - but also with all of our sisters and brothers who inhabit this fragile planet of ours.  

It is impossible to ignore our need for one another - our need for resurrection. We need only observe what's going on around us:
These events and issues - a handful among so many more - bring out the ongoing need of the Easter story in our own lives: from injury to healing, from despair to hope, from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, from division to solidarity, from pain to pardon, and from stubbornness to understanding. 

Resurrection changed Jesus. Resurrection changed Lazarus. So for us, too, resurrection must mean change. We cannot go back to the same old life. Easter is not just something we look forward to. It is here and now. 

A continuous, daily shift of mind and heart makes the Easter story a daily story: a shift to sacrifice and service, to penance and prayer, from blaming others to self-responsibility, to stewardship and generosity, from self-interests to the common good, from words that hurt to words that help and heal, from fists closed in anger to hands opened in embracing, from grudges that cling to the past to forgiveness that opens to a future of hope and healing.

Like Lazarus, the Resurrection Experience is for us the turning point, the point of no return. Lent allows us to proclaim that we will never go back to the darkness from which He has rescued us. We will never go back to the sins and selfishness which lead only to death. We will never go back to cowardice and weakness in the face of evil. We will never bury ourselves in hopelessness and despair. 

And - like Lazarus - it starts with a courageous return from the tomb.