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Life-giving death

by | Apr 2, 2014 | Formation, Reflections

Vincent EucharistFifth Sunday of Lent (A), April 6, 2014 – Ez 37, 12-14; Rom 8, 8-11; Jn 11, 1-45

The one who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies (Rom 8, 11)

Jesus guarantees life to believers.  His love to the end vivifies.  Loving as he does, we live through his Spirit.

Jesus loves Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  That is why he is saddened by Lazarus’ death and by his sister’s tears.  Just the thought of the tomb makes him weep, and he is even more perturbed when he gets there.  The one who is like us in all things, but sin, expresses his love as we do, we who prove ourselves human, according to St. Vincent de Paul, through our ability to weep with those who weep (Coste XII 270-271).

But even so, Jesus’ love is different.  He loves to death.  Hence, he decides to go back to Judea in spite of the danger that lurks there.

The disciples, concerned surely for his safety, remind him of the danger.  But their concern comes hand in hand perhaps with lack of understanding.  They show repeatedly that they do not understand him.  Besides, they still have not heard the teaching, “No one has greater love that this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  They do not grasp deeply yet the love that breaks the mold, the love of the one who is concerned about saving Lazarus first and not about saving himself.

Jesus’ behavior indicates that life is not possible without death, that glory means shame.  Just a bit later he will teach:  “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

The teaching, just like the invitation to return to Judea, seeks basically to enkindle within us the faith that impels us to say, “Let us also go to die with him.”  And to go and die with Jesus, a friend to sinners and the excluded especially, means, among other things:  neither to retreat to our own security nor to opt for rigid defensiveness; to find troubling that so many of our brothers and sisters have become living dead, without either hope or dreams; to open, not close, the door to grace (cf EG 45, 49, 94).  In Vincentian language, instead of enclosing ourselves in our secure shell, we will go out to assist the poor in every way (Coste XII 87, 92-93), though they may smell bad and even emit the stench of death.

The sooner we love as Jesus, the sooner we will live and see the dead rise—one more proof of the presence and the death too of the Messiah.  Perhaps we do not see the dead rise nowadays because we, the Church, are not conformed to Christ’s death.  Now that we have silver and gold, we cannot command in his name, “Arise!”  And if we hardly get in the Eucharist a foretaste of future glory, could it be because we do not really call to mind Christ’s passion?

Ross Reyes Dizon

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