Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

March 26: Fifth Sunday of Lent

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Transcendent and eternal life

Ez 37:12-14; Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45

The earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria have shown how fragile life is. The herculean efforts to find survivors demonstrates how precious life is. Survivors who were trapped in the rubble of destroyed buildings held on for hours and days, clinging desperately to life. Rescuers worked past the point of exhaustion to extricate them from the rubble of their homes. When a few survivors were pulled from the debris — some after weeks — it did seem like Lazarus emerging from the tomb. The will to hold on to life against all odds testifies to people’s will to live.

Why do we cling to life so tenaciously? We live for our family and friends. We find fulfillment in our work. We find meaning in the causes we support. We are proud of our homes. We find joy in music and the arts. We find escape in sports and relaxation in walks in the woods or along the seashore. We expand our horizons in travel, reading, and study. We find excitement in competition and lively discussion. We find comfort in a presence of a sympathetic listener and challenge from a persuasive speaker. We find peace as we watch the sunset at the end of a challenging day. There are so many experiences that make life worth living. Life is good.

There is another dimension to human existence — a deeper dimension to human life that transcends the ordinary. Tragically, we can live our lives without ever attending to that transcendent reality. This more profound dimension to human life is life with God. Our lives of human achievement and human relationships will end, but life with God will not because it is not the product of human potential or will. It is a gift that we can only gratefully received through our faith in Jesus, who give us the “Spirit of God,” who dwells in us.

The raising of Lazarus was the sign that Jesus offers us an opportunity to live on a deeper level — a level of human existence that is life with God — a life that is everlasting. The irony in the story of Lazarus’ raising is that it set in motion a series of events that eventually led to Jesus’ death. John envelopes this irony in another: It is Jesus’ death that offers us life: “Whoever believes in me, even if they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25b-26a).

The raising of Lazarus was one of the signs that defined the mission of Jesus.

The evangelist assures us: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:30-31). The goal, then, of Jesus’ mission is life. That human beings may share God’s life is possible because of God’s extravagant love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

In today’s lesson from Romans, Paul affirms that those who believe have the Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwelling in them. It is that Spirit that “will give life to (our) mortal bodies” (Rom 8:11). The eternal life that we share is nothing less than the life of the Trinity. It is the outpouring of the love of the three persons of God for each other. The Father entrusts the mission of proclaiming the power of that love to the Son, who bestows the life-giving Spirit to those who believe.

The sudden and unexpected earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria ended the life of tens of thousands of people. The life that the Spirit bestows never ends. It is eternal life. The Apostle assures us that the one who raised Christ from the dead will give us life through the Spirit dwelling in us. We look forward in faith to the day when we will experience the fulfillment of that promise. The raising of Lazarus was a sign of an even greater miracle when Christ will raise our mortal bodies and make them like his own in glory. Life is good. Life with God is forever.


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