Saturday, 1 April 2017

LIFE WITH JESUS Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent year A

1st Reading:  Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalm 129
2nd Reading: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John:11:1-45
A child whispered, "God, Speak to me"
And a meadowlark sang, the child did not hear
so the child yelled, "God, speak to me!"
and the thunder rolled across the sky
but the child did not listen.
The child looked around and said, "God let me see you"
and a star shone brightly,
but the child did not notice.
And the child shouted, "God show me a miracle!"
And a life was born but the Child did not know.
So the child cried out in despair,
"Touch me, God, and let me know you are here!"
whereupon God reached down
And touched the child.
But the child brushed the butterfly away
And walked away unknowingly.
(an old Hindu poem by Ravindra K. Karnani)
I bet this may be your story!

Many times God surprises us. He wants us to think of Him and life from a different perspective - Divine and not human, but we keep misunderstanding him. In the Gospel of John, we found some instances of per-se controversial statements from Jesus that should call for an inner - divine intelligence (understanding) but rather human understanding would try to prevail. Let us consider some of them:

  • Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) Those who were listening misunderstood and thought he was talking of the temple in Jerusalem. They said it took forty-six years to build the temple but Jesus was talking of his own body. When Jesus rose from the dead his disciples remembered and believed. (John 2:19-22)
  • Jesus said to Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:3) Nicodemus misunderstood and asked, “How can anyone who is already old be born? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born?” (John 3:4) Jesus has to further clarify, “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)
  • Jesus asked the woman by the well in Samaria for a drink (John 4:7). When she complained because he was a Jew he answered, “if you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me something to drink,' you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10) She misunderstands and thinks Jesus will offer her running water like water from a faucet so that she won’t have to come to the well every day. So Jesus clarifies further, “whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again; but no one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life. (John 4:13-14)
  • Jesus said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) But they quarrelled among themselves saying “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” But Jesus reiterated, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:53-56) At this many of Jesus’ disciples abandoned him and returned to their former lives. (John 6:66)
Jesus wants us to look at life with an eye of faith - beyond the physical - through a divine perspective and then to live life faithfully. In todays Gospel, Jesus said to Martha, "Your brother will rise." (John 11:23) Martha immediately professed her faith in the resurrection at the last day, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." (Jn. 11:24) That was a great answer ... isn't it? Yes she was right! but Jesus has some other agenda. He wants to show us His glory - the glory he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He wants Martha and Mary to have what I may call "pre-resurrection" experience. He wants to take them to a new understanding of the resurrection, and Jesus said:
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn.11:25-26)
Jesus wants Martha to know that it is through Him - Jesus that Lazarus will rise again here on earth and on the last day, "I am the resurrection and the life..." - Jesus is the resurrection. He also wants Martha and us to know that for anyone who believes in Him death has only the appearance of death because we live even after death, "whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live". In fact, if we believe in Jesus we will not die! this is in the sense that the life we live in Christ today will continue after death, "everyone who lives and believes in me will never die!". When we live as Jesus calls us there is a continuation from this life to the next. When we live as disciples of Jesus, it is as if we will almost not notice passing from this life to the next because spiritually we will never die. So the resurrection is not just something in the future, Jesus offers that Life now! The new life in the resurrection is for now. To prove his words to Martha, Jesus raised Lazarus. 
(painting by Donald Shaw for
Pope Francis during one of his morning meditations earlier this year said:  

"life “is today”. It is “a today that begins and a today that ends; a today full of days, but it is today...It’s either “today or never. I think about this. The tomorrow will be the eternal tomorrow, with no sunset, with the Lord, for ever, if I am faithful to this today”. (Morning meditation in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae, Thursday, 12 Jan. 2017)

We may now ask, how can we live this life of Jesus now? Jesus offers his life every time we come to mass, every time we receive the sacraments, every time we pray, every time we read the Sacred Scripture. The preface for Mass today, tells us,

In his love for us all
Christ gives us the sacraments
to lift us up to everlasting life.
(Preface 5th Sunday of Lent)
The sacraments are the special ways we meet Jesus. In the sacraments we touch Jesus and we are touched by Jesus. Jesus gave us the sacraments to lift us up to everlasting life.

Continue to have a fruitful Lent!
Fr. James Anyaegbu
(This sermon was inspired by

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