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Sunday:       5 TH SUNDAY OF LENT - Christian Initiation - Third Scrutiny
Date:         April 9, 2000
Year:         B
The readings: [Eze. 37:12-14; Rom. 8:8-11; Jn. 11:1-45]
The message:  Those who believe in Me will live!
Prepared by:  THE CATHOLIC DOORS MINISTRY
Total words:  1243

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** The readings follow the sermon.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to the Third Scrutiny of the Christian Initiation. Today's message from the readings of the Holy Scriptures is, "Those who believe in Me will live!"

Beginning with the First Reading from the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament, we heard of God's promise to bring us back to the land of Israel, to open up our graves, to rise us up from our graves and to put His Spirit within us so we will know that He is the Lord God.

In order to perceive what God was saying in this passage, it is necessary to embrace a spiritual approach. As we know from reading the Holy Bible, through symbols, God frequently concealed His mysteries in the Old Testament until the fullness of time had arrived.

The first thing to consider in this reading is, what did God mean when He said that He would bring us back to the land of Israel. Based on Genesis 32:28, we know that the name "Israel" means, "he who prevails with God."

Next, we have to consider what God meant when He said that He would raise us up from our graves. To perceive this meaning, we have to review the verses that preceded this passage. In those verses, God had commanded Ezekiel to prophecies to the bones in the valley to rise. Doing so, flesh came upon the bones and covered them, but they remained lifeless. When Ezekiel prophesied for the second time for the Spirit of God to enter the lifeless bodies, they lived. [Eze. 37:1-10])

Therefore, when God was speaking of opening our graves, this was a reference to our resurrection by the power of His Spirit. Applying this understanding to what was said earlier, we can truthfully say that "with God, by the power of his Spirit, we will prevail by resurrecting from the dead." This truth is further supported by the Words of God who said, "I will put My Spirit within you."

Through our resurrection, we will come to know that the Lord God is almighty, all-merciful and He always keeps His promises.

In the Second Reading, we heard that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. We are not in the flesh, but in the spirit because the Spirit of God dwells in us.

This passage holds a great mystery that many have failed to perceive. It holds the key to understanding the mystery of the Sacrament of Baptism. When St. Paul said that we are not in the flesh but in the spirit, he was referring to our human spirit, our new creation that resurrected with Christ during the Sacrament of Baptism. The Holy Bible teaches us that we all enjoy a human spirit within us. [Job 32:8; Prov. 18:14, 20:27; Ecc. 3:21; Eze. 11:19, 36:26; Zech. 12:1; Mt. 26:41; Lk. 8:55; Jn. 3:6; Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:11] In the Letter of James, we find a passage that states, "The body without the spirit is dead." [Jas. 2:26] It is the human spirit that gives life to the physical body, this being apart from the Spirit of God Who assures our salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God in the beatific vision of God.

In this reading, St. Paul was talking about both, the indwelling Holy Spirit and our newly created human spirit. In the flesh, in this worldly body that is called to come to an end, we cannot please God. Our physical bodies have been corrupted by the original sin that we have inherited from our first parents.

But, having been born again through faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we have resurrected as new creations that are free of the original sin and the sins that we committed prior to receiving this Sacrament. Within each of us who have been baptized dwells a new creation of the godly seed. [1 Jn. 3:9] Our new creations are everything! [Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:18] Through our human spirit, we are now able to worship God in spirit. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." [Jn. 4:24] "For the Father seeks such as these to worship Him." [Jn. 4:23]

St. Paul said, those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Him. To inherit the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ, by the grace of God the Father, we were required to receive the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Christ.

Having been baptized, our bodies are counted as dead because of sin. But because of the new creation within us, we have life. Our new creations of the godly seed are our assurance of the righteousness of Christ before the eyes of God.

When Christ died on the Holy Cross, He commanded His Spirit into the hands of the Father. [Lk. 23:46] As previously said, "The body without the spirit is dead." [Jas. 2:26] But, when the Holy Spirit of God returned upon the lifeless body of Jesus, He gloriously resurrected.

If the Spirit of God Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in us. This is our assurance of salvation. Because the Spirit of Christ dwells within us, we will enjoy the eternal beatific vision of God in His Kingdom. Through our human spirit, our souls receive the long awaited hope of eternal peace and joy. While our physical bodies shall die, our souls shall continue to manifest themselves through our newly created spiritual forms, our human spirits that God created during the Sacrament of Baptism.

Today's Gospel affirms the truth that Christ has the power to resurrect our physical bodies. Those who believe in Him will live! Speaking of Lazarus, when Jesus said, "This illness does not lead to death." He was saying that physical death does not lead to soul death, the eternal separation from God. The soul, immortal in nature, it lives on.

"Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world." In other words, spiritual thinking, those who walk with Christ will live for He is the Light of the world. He is the way, the truth and the life.

"But those who walk at night stumble, because the light in not in them." Those who reject Jesus as the Light of the world have no hope. They are blinded by the darkness that surrounds their worldly ways of thinking. They have not been born again because they do not have the new human spirit that is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. They cannot see the Light of God because they are not inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." Though we are called to physically die, we will prevail and enjoy the Kingdom of God through His gracious gifts of our human spirits and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit because our faith is in Christ.

Those who believe in Me will live! My brothers and sisters, our living faith in Christ is our assurance of salvation. Our living faith in Christ opens the door for us to shine in hope and charity towards others in Christlikeness. Through Jesus, we will forever enjoy the beatific vision of God in Heaven.

The readings...
[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]
"Thus says the Lord God: 'I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.

I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,' says the Lord." [Eze. 37:12-14]

"Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.

If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you." [Rom. 8:8- 11]

"Now a certain man, Lazarus, was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, 'Lord, he whom you love is ill,' But when Jesus heard this, he said, 'This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.' Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this Jesus said to the disciples, 'Let us go to Judea again.' The disciples said to him, 'Rabbi, the people there were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?' Jesus answered, 'Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light in not in them.'

After saying this, he told them, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.' The disciples said to him, 'Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.' Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him,' Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with him.'

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.'

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, 'The Teacher is here and is calling for you.' And when Mary heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.

The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. Jesus said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!' But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.' Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, 'Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.' Jesus said to her, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, 'Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.'

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him and let him go.'

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him." [Jn. 11:1-45]




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