I AM the Resurrection and the Life

March 30, 2020
I AM the Resurrection and the Life

Chapter Talk – Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 29, 2020 – cycle-A 

The gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, is the last of the ‘signs’ in St. John’s gospel where Jesus reveals in his person the glory of God.  The context for ‘believing in John’s gospel involves an encounter, an encounter with Christ.  Sandra Schneiders in her book, Written That You May Believe, states: “For John faith is not a spiritual acquisition or a state of being but an activity, an ever-active relationship in the present” (p.51-52). In many ways one can view the whole gospel of John as a gospel of ‘believing’.  In my reading of John’s gospel, I think this statement holds true: to believe precedes understanding. Or,“We believe in order to understand(Give Us this Day, March 2020, p.241).  We are baptized into a faith reality.  To strive to understand, without faith, disconnects us from the spiritual ground of our lives, this faith dimension, which enables us to experience and come to truly know.  Sandra Schneider’s writes that “Spirituality is lived participation in the paschal mystery of Christ” (Written That You May Believe, p.151).  Today’s gospel of the raising of Lazarus from the dead invites us into this experiential level of participating in the mystery of ‘resurrection’.  

If we try to ‘understand’ resurrection apart from faith, we will certainly get caught in a whirlwind of thoughts, doubts, confusion and so on. ‘Believing’ roots us in experience…believing leans us into God, into the mind and heart of Christ.  Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, in commenting on this gospel, underscores this idea when he wrote: “Resurrection…is not so much a theological problem as it is a religious experience.  It is not an extravagant miracle happening out there; it means the transforming presence of Jesus within us” (Biblical Meditations for Lent, p.107).  It is the faith encounter with Christ that opens the horizon of the heart to understand both life and death in a new way” (Sandra Schneiders, Written That You May Believe p.157).

Turning to the encounter of Jesus and Martha we see that as soon as Jesus arrives in Bethany Martha is there to greet him while Mary stays back at home.  Her first words are: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  In this encounter, Martha’s faith is very much alive, and we can assume, from her words, that this has developed from other encounters with Jesus.  With the loss of a loved one, we can imagine that she or us could have said words like this:Lord, you really do not love us…why were you not here earlier’.  Jesus then tells Martha that her brother will rise.  Martha responds with the theological understanding of her faith: “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  Then Jesus responds: “I am the resurrection and the life…” He then asks Martha: “Do you believe this?”  And her reply: “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ.”  Martha utters her proclamation of faith before Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead.  Sandra Schneiders comments that “Faith at this point is not theological assent but personal spiritual transformation. ‘Do you believe this’?” (p.158).  This encounter of living faith opens the tomb of what is dead in us…the rock is already removed!  Faith develops, faith deepens through a living encounter with Christ.

“I am the resurrection and the life…those who believe in me even if they die will live”…our living encounter, our faith encounter with Jesus will help us to understand, that now, not just when we die, Life, God’s Life comes out of our daily deaths…’Come out of your tomb, come out of all that imprisons you, come out into the Life that death cannot overpower.  In the words of Fr. John Donahue: “Jesus offers ‘eternal life,’ which begins with faith now and lasts forever. ‘Eternal life’ in John is not primarily unending life but ‘authentic life,’ or life in its fullness” (Hearing the Word of God, p.43).  This is what our faith encounter with Jesus is offering on this Fifth Sunday of Lent: life in its fullness, authentic life…Let us put aside our negative reactions that oppose life.  Let Christ roll the rock away from our tombs of doubt and fearLet him call us forth into this fullness of life…God’s great gift embodied in his Son….

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

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