THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
This weekend I am using the Readings from Year A, because most Parishes would be having candidates preparing to be received into the Eucharistic Community this Easter and they would usually use the Reading for Year A.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in my being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link. The Second Reading is continuous, and follows on to the next Sunday.
First Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14
The Lord says this: I am going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
(Let’s PAUSE and reflect upon this reading, and let us ask ourselves the two questions stated above. That is our PERSONAL response to the Word. This might take a few minutes, try not to rush it. The Psalm and Antiphon is the COMMUNITY response to God’s Word, a bit like a short and sweet Text Message)
Psalm: Ps 129
R. With the Lord there is mercy
and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ear be attentive
to the voice of my pleading. R.
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you. R.
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
(Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.) R.
Because with the Lord there is mercy
and fullness of redemption,
Israel indeed he will redeem
from all its iniquity. R.
Second Reading: Romans 8:8-11
People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let’s PAUSE again after this Reading, and reflect on it like you did after the first Reading. The Community Acclamation follows and should be sung: e.g ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday!
We never say it… 🙂
Gospel: John 11:1-45
There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. – It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:
‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles,
because there is no light to guide him.’
He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:
‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.
Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak
for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’ Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflection time again……. Can you see and hear the links, connecting the First Reading, Second Reading and the Gospel? After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
If you have ever opened your eyes under water, or used a snorkel and face mask, or had the opportunity to use an aqualung, it is a very different world to explore isn’t it? I love snorkelling, and it is though the fish welcome you into their world. However, they need to be treated with respect, and one must be aware of ‘no-go’ zones especially where sharks are known to call that place, ‘home’ especially at meal times. So, this next section is going down into the Scriptures, which opens the pathway for us to be curious about The Word, and it will also develop an appetite in us to do this more often.
Focusing the Gospel
Key words and phrases
If you had been here, my brother would not have died.
‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live.
I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.
Lazarus, here! Come out!
I mean to raise you from your graves, my people.
He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.
to the point
Though Martha professes, ‘you are the Christ, the Son of God,’ her belief is still lacking for she expresses disapproval to Jesus for not saving her brother. Similarly with Mary and us. Even when belief is a struggle and less than perfect, Jesus still acts to bring new life. This is where our hope lies.
Connecting the Gospel
The sacraments of initiation are just that – a beginning. Like Martha and Mary we have faith but it is less than perfect. Nevertheless, Jesus acts continually to bring us to new life.
to Christian experience
Frequently this gospel is used at funerals and so we tend to associate the life that Jesus gives with resurrection and eternal life. For those who believe, eternal life begins now.
Ezekiel first and foremost
Resurrection and life
Let’s spend a bit of time on the Old Testament reading before we move on in greater detail to the Gospel of John. The Prophet’s name is very important, it means “may El strengthen” As we have mentioned before El is either a suffix or prefix for an aspect, or part of the personality of God’s self. So, keeping that in mind, this element of God, and God’s saving action is manifested through the Prophet giving Israel strength and absolute Hope. This is indeed poignant in today’s 1st Reading. The historical and geographical context of this reading is far away from the Land that the Lord God had given to Israel. God’s chosen people were in exile and captivity; notice now the importance of the Prophet’s name? There is no doubt whatsoever that Ezekiel; among all of the Prophets is the herald of God’s faithfulness and power, which the changes in History cannot hold in check. When everything seems lost, when the visible guarantees of the covenant have disappeared – dwelling in the Promised Land, the Davidic dynasty, the Temple – God remains faithful and capable of creating a new future for his own. He will open the graves, which hold the imprisoned; he will lead them out…as we read in today’s narrative. But also, the liberation from captivity is totally guaranteed by the Word of the Lord. This is one of the principal lessons of Ezekiel’s Oracles: “You shall know that I am the Lord”. I have underlined the last few words because we will refer to this a bit further down when we look at the Gospel. It is so important to take note that the Prophet mentions this fact… I am the Lord, eighty six times in this Book. This is the twitter message in this reading which we can never forget! Nothing can cause us to doubt the promises of the Lord, who will deliver his people since he has committed himself to it…. This is evergreen! This is for all times and seasons! This is manifested so completely in Jesus, the Word made flesh! Now, we can see how the Responsorial Psalm is such a holistic response….body, mind, spirit, cry out in one voice………This Psalm has no doubt been in our hearts and lips before…….. “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord!!” Now, we can move onto the Gospel.
The central affirmation of this gospel narrative comes when Jesus tells Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (11:25). This is the climax of a number of identity-statements Jesus makes about himself: ‘I am the bread of life’ (6:35); ‘. . . the light of the world’ (9:5); ‘. . . the good shepherd’ (10:11); ‘. . . the way, the truth, and the life’ (14:6); ‘. . . the vine’ (15:5). Jesus also asserts simply ‘I AM’ (8:58; 13:19), thus echoing God’s self-revelation to Moses in the burning bush, ‘I AM WHO AM’ (Exodus 3:14); this reinforces Jesus’ claim that ‘The Father and I are one’ (John 10:30).
The statement ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ is especially significant in John’s gospel. John is selective in reporting the miracles (‘signs’) of Jesus: he recounts only seven. In this carefully chosen series, the raising of Lazarus is the final and, therefore, climactic sign. Earlier in this gospel Jesus taught that he has power to give life: ‘just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes’ (5:21; see also 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:40; 10:10). In raising Lazarus Jesus demonstrates that he indeed raises the dead and gives life.
The resurrection and the life’ has a present and future focus. Jesus is the source of life now for believers; he means this in not only a spiritual sense, for Lazarus indeed finds actual life in Jesus. But as wondrous as is the raising of Lazarus, it is merely resuscitation for he will die again. For this reason Jesus makes the even more astounding claim: he is the resurrection. By this he signifies that he will raise all who believe from death to eternal life – a life that does not end. Yet life now and life to come are not easily distinguished: each is an aspect of the other, as is evident when Jesus tells disciples, ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day’ (6:54). Jesus is both life and eternal life.
SEEING IN THE DARK. 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT (from Year A for those in the RCIA process).
Dr Brian Gleeson, a Passionist priest, lectures in systematic theology at the Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne. He recently stepped down as the Head of the Department of Church History and Systematic Theology at YTU. He joined the faculty at the beginning of 2001. His previous appointments were at Catholic Theological College Adelaide (2 years); St Paul’s National Seminary Sydney (13 years); Catholic Theological Union Sydney (8 years); Pius XII Regional Seminary, Brisbane (1 year); and Good Samaritan Teachers’ College, Sydney (4 years). His postgraduate studies were with the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium; the Gregorian University, Rome; and the Melbourne College of Divinity. Fr Gleeson is also an active member of ACTA (Australian Catholic Theologians’ Association).
WEEPING AT THE TOMB OF LAZARUS. 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT (from Year A for those in the RCIA process)
‘Jesus weeps’ with sadness at the death of his friend. He does not hide his tears. But then he calls out: ‘Take the stone away.’ ‘Lazarus … come out.’ ‘Unbind Lazarus, and let him go free.’ Clearly Jesus is the Master of life and death, the resurrection and the life. Death comes in many forms other than our final exit. A kind of death happens when we find ourselves suffering guilt, grief, hurt, illness, shame, humiliation, separation, or the end of one’s marriage. The dreadful experience, whatever form it takes, may even leave us feeling that we have no energy, no future, and nothing left to live for. So it’s not difficult to see dead and buried Lazarus as a symbol for each of us. Whatever form living death may take in our lives, we rarely recover without
a great deal of help from other people, help which includes friendship and tender loving care, This is where we act like Jesus himself when he intervenes in the death of Lazarus, and in the grief of Martha and Mary! This is where we help the ones we love and befriend, to get up from their living death, rise to new life, and get moving again. So it’s a matter of being ready to be ‘godsends‘, in fact agents and instruments of the Holy Spirit, to anyone who may need us. It’s a matter of being sensitive to, being responsible for, and being compassionate towards. It’s a matter of believing in, hoping that, and supporting the struggling and stumbling ones, to get back on track and rediscover that life is still worth living and that they have a lot of living to do.
A realhomile from Fr.Kevin Walsh
Dear One and All,
Each week as we listen to the various Gospel stories, the risk is that as they are so familiar to us, we can be blinded to the significance of the evergreen Word being proclaimed to us now. Whenever God’s Word is proclaimed, an invitation is extended to us, and our response depends on the ‘alertness’ of our minds and hearts to the activity of the Spirit within us. Please take note of the section in the Deep Sea Diving into the Scriptures, where I have spoken about the mission of Ezekiel, because his mission and message comes to fruition in today’s Gospel and continually in the Church today.
Today we hear the familiar and so very touching story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Notice that Jesus cried! As we journey through the Gospels there are many examples of Jesus being moved with emotion. Jesus sighs; Jesus is angry; Jesus loves with a heart set on fire by His Father … a heart, which reaches out, to all people in ordinary and difficult situations. Sometimes, His response causes a negative reaction among the people around Him.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus does not hide His feelings. He is moved with love whenever He sees people like sheep without a shepherd … He wept over Jerusalem before His Passion. In a cry of surrender from the Cross, Jesus cried out ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ The Roman Centurion, standing at the foot of the Cross and hearing Jesus breathe His last, was brought to faith by observing that ‘This was a great and good man.’ In raising Lazarus from the tomb, Jesus was saying not only to His friend, but also to all of us … ‘Death could not bind you. I have come to bring you to life and to make you free!’ But there is more being said here in this Gospel story. We see the anguish of Mary and Martha over the death of their brother! We also see that for Jesus, their place was His home away from home! Jesus enters into the anguish of these two sisters and shares genuinely in their grief. At the same time, He challenges them to believe ‘I am the Resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will never die (eternally) Do you believe this?’ And Martha said, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world.’ Jesus was not only putting this question to Martha, He was also putting it to us! And what will our response be? Lent is the perfect time to think this over and renew out response. Finally, let’s not forget the significance and ongoing command from Jesus in his words: “Unbind him, let him go free!”This command was not only for Lazarus, this command is to all disciples of Jesus in the corporate Mission to the world for all time. In looking at this command from Jesus, we are called to unbind people and set them free. This is not just our desire or wish; this is the living out of the prayer of Jesus for all times. We have to do our part with Jesus in the fulfilment of His prayer. Look at ourselves! What needs to be unbound in us? What spiritual or unspiritual speed humps cause us to be enslaved? Surely in being Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart, we need to recognise this in ourselves, and then through the deepest of compassion be instruments of the Lord in unbinding and enabling freedom in other people. On this the 5th Sunday of Lent, as we are on the brink on entering into the holiest of weeks, we are called to reflect upon this important and pivotal message as we experience ‘being saved’, Salvation, and being Angels in human form for others to experience ‘being saved’; salvation. Let’s not forget that the saving hand of God were the hands who unbound and set Lazarus free! How have you experienced that in your life? Food for thought, eh?
When the chips are down, faith is our great ally in facing death. It does not mean that we have all the answers or that we are absented from grief or loss. On the contrary, the walking through grief and loss and the shedding of tears, either as individuals but hopefully as a community, is necessary to our spiritual/human development. Surely, true compassion for those who suffer loss is really sharing in their suffering so that they know that they are not alone. As the famous English writer C. S. Lewis once said, ‘The greatest lovers in this world are those who have suffered much’. Something to ponder as we come closer to Holy Week!
May God’s Word find a home within your heart, and may the love that radiates from you, warm all who come close to you…….now and forever. Amen. Fr.Kev
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. During Lent you might like to place some purple material on your devotional altar. You might like to create your own permanent ‘sacred space’ in your home, where the Word of God is open, and a small tee light within a fire proof glass, could awaken in the minds and hearts of your family of the ‘real presence’ of God in His Word. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. The burning of some fragrant oil also can evoke in the minds of your family, ‘prayer time’. Someone in the family might like to be the leader of the intercessions, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…
Leader: We now ask the Lord to heal us from all sin,
so that we can become healers of others.
1. Lord Jesus, you bore our sickness
and endured our suffering:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
2. Jesus Christ, people brought the sick to you
and you cured many:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
3. Lord Jesus, you heal the brokenhearted
and you bind up their wounds:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Lord, we look for you to heal us
from all sin and evil.
Forgive us and lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.
Leader: Before we offer and receive the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, we bring our prayers to our loving Lord of life.
+For our Holy Father the Pope, for our bishop, our priests and our pastoral ministers, that their life of service be blessed and renewed, we pray to the Lord: Lord, let your light shine on us.
+For our national, state, and local leaders, that they redouble their efforts to protect human life from conception to death, we pray to the Lord: Lord, let your light shine on us.
+For the members of this faith community, that we never take for granted the precious gifts of life and love, we pray to the Lord: Lord, let your light shine on us.
+For firefighters, the police, ambulance, doctors, nurses, and all hospital personnel, that their work of saving and protecting life be successful and appreciated, we pray to the Lord: Lord, let your light shine on us.
+For all who are terminally ill, that their hope of life eternal be strengthened by the care and comfort they receive, we pray to the Lord: Lord, let your light shine on us.
+For all who have died, especially N. and N., that they rejoice in the glory of God’s kingdom of everlasting life, we pray to the Lord: Lord, let your light shine on us.
+ Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and ipads….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., we pray to the Lord: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
Leader: Loving God of life, we thank you for your gifts through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary, Scotland.
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata.
Leader: The Cross
ALL WE SHALL TAKE IT.
ALL WE SHALL BREAK IT.
ALL WE SHALL BEAR IT.
ALL WE SHALL SHARE IT.
ALL WE SHALL LIVE IT.
ALL WE SHALL GIVE IT.
ALL WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
ALL WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.