The spiritual path to freedom and new life that Lent entails symbolically culminates at Easter. It is often experienced as a type of resurrection from the death and decay of sin to a newfound life in God. If with God’s help we have undertaken the discipline of Lent, our own resurrection has already begun. If we have not, there is still good news in that God can bring us farther in one confession than in five weeks of prayer. Resurrection can happen in an instant.
In the opening reading we are with Ezekiel and his vision of a vast field of bones. God asked Ezekiel if he believed that God could bring these bones to life again, to which Ezekiel responded that only God knew this answer. God told Ezekiel that the field of bones represented captive and exiled Israel and then God proceeded to reassemble them with flesh right before Ezekiel’s eyes. The Scripture passage not only foretold Israel’s coming liberation from exile but it also holds hints of a coming future resurrection that was not merely symbolic. The passage speaks of a resurrection of peoples, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” This is viewed as an opening of Jewish thought to the truth of the coming resurrection of our bodies. Furthermore, the passage speaks of God planting his very spirit within men, which foretells the coming gift of the Holy Spirit within each of us through baptism bringing to life our mortal bodies dead in sin.
Ezekiel is thus an excellent foundation for today’s selection from the eighth chapter of Romans. Here Paul explores the Christian’s newfound life through the indwelling Spirit received in baptism. Paul teaches that those who follow the lead of the Spirit planted within them at baptism have already begun their resurrection. For Paul, resurrection is not simply the body being raised up at the end of life, but it is also a spiritual resurrection of one’s moral life that can and should begin now.
This drama of God’s love for us in any type of death or decay is beautifully captured in the miracle of Lazarus. God does not rejoice in the decay and death of a sinner, but rather, expressed through the tears of Jesus, he weeps at our loss. God wills that we be freed not only from final death but from the death that holds us in bondage even now like tightly wrapped linen. Even if all others, even those who love us like Martha and Mary, think that we are lost and beyond hope, Jesus comes to us. He calls to each of us in the darkness and says “Lazarus come out!” He commands the church to unbind us through his sacrament of confession and we, like Lazarus, come out into a new light. We emerge to live again until the final day when God beckons us home to the day that will never end.
Questions for reflection
1. Where in my life has my resurrection already begun?
2. Where is God calling me in love to emerge from some bondage?
3. When did I last let God unbind me through the sacrament of reconciliation?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.