5th Sunday in Lent - The Turning Point
Traditionally, the Gospel for the last Sunday of Lent before Palm Sunday recounts the story of the raising of Lazarus - 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. We need only to reflect on the scenes of steadfast courage and determination of the Ukrainian people in the face of oppression to glimpse the seeds of resurrection amid death and destruction.
Stories such as these can make real the ongoing need of the Easter story in our own lives - from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, from division to solidarity, from pain to pardon, from stubbornness to understanding and from death into life.
Jesus' compassion for Martha and Mary turned utter despair into ultimate joy. Resurrection changed Lazarus. Resurrection changed Jesus. 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. It is a shift to sacrifice and service, to penance and prayer, from blaming others to self-responsibility, to stewardship and generosity, 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 for us - like Lazarus - it starts with a courageous return from the tomb.