Engaging the Gospel – Fifth Sunday of Lent

5th Sunday of Lent: Gospel – John 11:1-45

In Sunday’s dramatic Gospel, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, prefiguring His own Resurrection and giving us “a sign and pledge” of our future resurrection in Him (Catechism paragraph 994).

The miracle performed for Lazarus, although amazing, is “essentially different” from Christ’s Resurrection. Lazarus was “returned by Jesus’ power to ordinary earthly life,” and at some point “would die again.”

In contrast, “Christ’s Resurrection was not a return to earthly life…In His risen body He passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space” (646). His “authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body” (645), as we will after the resurrection of the dead (999).

“Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning…Through Baptism, the Christian has already died with Christ sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this dying with Christ and so completes our incorporation into Him” (1010).

To help us remain in the state of grace, the “Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death” (1014). This need not fill us with fear, if we entrust ourselves to Christ and abide with Him through it all.

As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us,

In Baptism we give ourselves over to Christ – He takes us unto Himself, so that we no longer live for ourselves, but through Him, with Him and in Him…

If we offer ourselves in this way, if we accept, as it were, the death of our very selves, this means that the frontier between death and life is no longer absolute.

On either side of death we are with Christ and so, from that moment forward, death is no longer a real boundary…

As a result we are never alone, even in death, but are always with the One Who lives for ever. In Baptism, in the company of Christ, we have already made that cosmic journey to the very abyss of death.

At His side and, indeed, drawn up in His love, we are freed from fear. He enfolds us and carries us wherever we may go – He Who is Life itself.

Homily of April 7, 2007.

Question for reflection: How does Christ’s conquest of death help me to face my own mortality?