5th Sunday in Lent - Resurrection and Reconciliation

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.

Resurrection changed Jesus. For him, it wasn't just coming back to his previous life for a few more years. He came to a totally new kind of living, beyond time and space, and yet fully present through faith to the believers of each succeeding generation.

Like Lazarus, raised from the dead, Lent gives us the opportunity to be touched once again by the power of the Risen Christ, and to renew the Resurrection Experience which we believe has deeply touched our own lives.

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.

Resurrection and Reconciliation take place in real life situations... with real people... our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or employers.  Lazarus represents each of us. How many apparently-alive people are closed in by one form of death or another? - a slow death by fear, anxiety, dependence, sickness, a dead-end job, disintegrating relationships, destructive behavior, etc.   Whatever the forms of death - serious or life-sapping - we need to hear the voice of Jesus call each of us out of that tomb today.

But it doesn't end there.  The Lazarus story invites us to faith... and in this Gospel, faith is a verb - you do faith.   Martha doesn’t profess faith in dogmatic truths or doctrinal teachings, but in the person of Christ - she puts her faith in Christ

Faith begins with a personal encounter with Christ. And every day we realize that our journey of faith becomes more and more difficult - not in spite of the Gospel message, but because of it - the message of Christ whose priorities were the weak, the downcast, the suffering, and those in most need of healing.

As Lent ends and we come to new life through Christ’s resurrection, we join Mary, Martha, Lazarus and the many who were with them - all those who had “seen what he had done and began to believe in him.”
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.

This is the Resurrection Experience that Lent so vividly and lovingly embraces. This is the Risen and Living Lord who draws all to Himself - The Lord who changes us, challenges us, and who calls us to be committed witnesses of His reconciling presence to others.

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