Fifth Sunday of Lent
IS 43: 16-21
PS 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
PHIL 3: 8-14
JN 8: 1-11
“Lazarus, come out!”
This simple command really jumped out at me this Lent when I heard the readings for today. Only two weeks away from Easter, the readings this Sunday are packed full of imagery and references to the resurrection. Ezekiel speaks of God opening our graves and having us rise from them. Paul writes to the Romans about renewed life in the spirit. Finally, in John’s gospel, Jesus
calls back to life a dear friend who had been dead and buried for four days. Themes of sleep and death are erased by themes of new life and awakening. It’s a message that links the penitence of Lent with the joy of Easter and which calls to us every morning.
When your alarm goes off in the morning, do you immediately get out of bed feeling refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of that day with determination and a positive attitude? Or do you hit the snooze alarm, reluctantly role out of bed at a later moment and confront that day’s challenges with a more pessimistic outlook? If you are like me, you can lay claim to both scenarios. We all have those occurrences in our lives that weigh on our spirit: a particularly ominous school project, a relationship that is going through rough times, or maybe a recent injury or loss of a loved one. Now I want you to think of a bad day you had recently. Was there a particular experience that day that helped to turn that day and your attitude around for the better? How did that experience help you to find new hope, strength, or joy when you most needed it? Do you remember feeling refreshed after that experience? That’s Lent!
Lent is to be a refreshing time, a time when we can let go of whatever weighs on our spirits and with our relationship with God. There is a quote from the animated movie Kung Fu Panda which I especially like and which seems to have particular relevance to today’s readings. When our hero Po is having doubts of his destiny and his own abilities to fulfill that destiny, he is forced to ponder an old proverb. “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called present.” Each day is a gift, and it comes to us from a God who bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things with us.
I pray this Lent that we remember that gift. I hope in our daily lives that when we hear “[Your name], come out!” we might meet that call with renewed hope and joy.
Stephen Kissel is a doctoral candidate in the History Department at Saint Louis University.