Homily for April 6, 2014: 5th Sunday of Lent: Deacon Steve Whiteman

April 6, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 ez 37:12-14

Responsorial Psalm ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R/ (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2 rom 8:8-11

Life through Christ

It must be getting close to Easter because the readings are getting longer and the miracles we hear about in the Gospel are getting more and more amazing. Let’s do a short recap of the Gospel readings from Lent:

1.   On the first Sunday of Lent we heard about Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert and overcoming the temptations of satan.

2.   On the second Sunday, Peter, James and John were given a glimpse of Christ’s glory as He was transfigured in front of them.

3.   On the third Sunday, Jesus met the Samaritan women at the well and convinced her that He was the promised Messiah.

4.   Last Sunday, Jesus did something no one had ever done before – he cured a man who was blind from birth.

5.   This week Jesus takes it up a notch and brings Lazarus back to life after being dead for 4 days.

6.   We are in the home stretch now and next weekend is Palm Sunday. I won’t spoil it for so you can come back next week to hear the rest of the story.

If you look at the readings for this weekend you will find some reoccurring themes:

  • God told the Israelites that He would put His Spirit in them so that they could live.
  • Paul told the Romans that the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead will give life to their mortal bodies.
  • And in the Gospel, Jesus told Martha that He was the Resurrection and the Life and whoever believes in Him will never die.

Since “LIFE” was the reoccurring theme this weekend I thought about the different ways that word is used in our society today.

It’s common to talk about your home life, your work life, your love life, your social life, your prayer life and your spiritual life. It’s amazing to think how different these parts of your life can be and that one may suffer at the expense of another. I know my home life and prayer life both suffer if I focus too much on my work life. I think the common denominator is a person’s priorities and the amount of time you devote to each part of your life. This is a good topic for Lent because if you try to practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving, you really learn a lot about your priorities.

Many people strive to find the perfect balance in their life.  There are many self-improvement books and programs you can buy to help you. I’m not sure there is a solution that works for everyone. Our life situation may change but hopefully we can continue to grow in our spiritual life.

I don’t believe a person can reach a perfect balance in their spiritual life here on earth. We continue to move down a path in our lives. And since God is always present and unchanging, the direction of the path we choose and the priorities we make each day are either taking us closer to God or moving us farther away from Him.

It’s like navigating our lives with a spiritual compass. This compass always points to God and we can choose a path that leads us towards Him or away from Him.  When I do find myself drifting away from Him, it’s a great comfort to know He is always there waiting for me to come back into His loving arms.

Priorities are a daily struggle for me, but I know there are some great examples of people who prioritize their prayer life in an effort to grow their relationship with God. When we do this and live a Christian life, everything else will fall naturally into place.

Kristin Armstrong wrote a reflection on this topic that hit home for me. She said we often seek to create life from relationships, from things we buy, from careers, from parenting, from our passions and even from ourselves. We try to create meaning out of our appearance, our image and our stuff. In our quest for peace, purpose and fulfillment, we collect a trophy room full of dusty idols. But the emptiness never fades, we are never full and nothing ever lasts long enough.

She said we often go to many places to seek life before we learn it comes from Jesus alone. He is, after all, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Of course, the stumbling block that keeps us from living our spiritual life to the fullest is sin. Sin is great at distorting our priorities. In the letter to the Romans, Paul said that those who live in the flesh cannot please God. Sin separates us from God and weighs us down. If we continue to ignore it and avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are committing spiritual suicide.

Just as there are many forms of life, there are many forms of death. Robert Barclay described it this way:

  • A person can become so selfish that he is dead to the needs of others.
  • A person can become so insensitive that he is dead to other people’s feelings.
  • A person can become so hopeless that he experiences a spiritual death.

The good news is that like Lazarus, Jesus can resurrect us from all these forms of death…even when we feel like we have been spiritually dead for a long time. This happens when we make Him a priority each day and believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and our path to eternal Life.

So let us ask God to help us build a relationship with Him that is strong enough to survive the challenges in this life and into the next. A spiritual life with God will take us beyond our physical death into eternal life with Him.