Liturgy of the Sunday

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Fifth Sunday of Lent

First Reading

Ezekiel 37,12-14

So, prophesy. Say to them, "The Lord Yahweh says this: I am now going to open your graves; I shall raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people, and put my spirit in you, and you revive, and I resettle you on your own soil. Then you will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken and done this -- declares the Lord Yahweh." '


Psalm 130


Only in God am I calm and secure.

O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty in my eyes.

I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.

Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.

A weaned child on its mother's breast,
even so is my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and for ever.

Second Reading

Romans 8,8-11

and those who live by their natural inclinations can never be pleasing to God. You, however, live not by your natural inclinations, but by the Spirit, since the Spirit of God has made a home in you. Indeed, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But when Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is alive because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead has made his home in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 11,1-45

There was a man named Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, 'Lord, the man you love is ill.' On receiving the message, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death, but it is for God's glory so that through it the Son of God may be glorified.' Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that he was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, 'Let us go back to Judaea.' The disciples said, 'Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews were trying to stone you; are you going back there again?' Jesus replied: Are there not twelve hours in the day? No one who walks in the daytime stumbles, having the light of this world to see by; anyone who walks around at night stumbles, having no light as a guide. He said that and then added, 'Our friend Lazarus is at rest; I am going to wake him.' The disciples said to him, 'Lord, if he is at rest he will be saved.' Jesus was speaking of the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by 'rest' he meant 'sleep'; so Jesus put it plainly, 'Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.' Then Thomas -- known as the Twin -- said to the other disciples, 'Let us also go to die with him.' On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said, 'I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said: I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.' When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, 'The Master is here and wants to see you.' Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house comforting Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who had come with her, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said, 'Where have you put him?' They said, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept; and the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him!' But there were some who remarked, 'He opened the eyes of the blind man. Could he not have prevented this man's death?' Sighing again, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, 'Take the stone away.' Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 'Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day since he died.' Jesus replied, 'Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?' So they took the stone away. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I myself knew that you hear me always, but I speak for the sake of all these who are standing around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me. When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, let him go free.' Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him,


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory


The Gospel we read shows clearly the power and greatness of Jesus' love. When he receives the news of his friend's death Jesus is far from the village of his friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It was dangerous for Jesus to return to Judea-he had been threatened several times-but he decides to go anyway: he cannot stay far from suffering and from the drama his friend Lazarus was living. For Jesus, friendship is a deep aspect of life. It is always there. How many times though do men and women flee from the suffering of others and doing so add to the drama of evil the bitterness of loneliness! We cannot but think of the many men and women on whose heads the heavy stone is laid still today. At times they are entire peoples who are oppressed by a cold and heavy slab, that of war, or of hunger, of loneliness and indifference. They are all heavy and cold stones that burden people not by chance or bitter destiny but for the evil will of men.
Only Jesus stays close to the Lazaruses of this world. He cries with them. And in a few days, it will happen to Jesus too, when he remains alone in the garden of Gethsemane and sweats drops of blood in his anguish. Jesus is alone before Lazarus; he hopes against everyone and everything. Even Lazarus' sisters try to dissuade him from opening the tomb. "Lord, there will be a stench, he's there for four days," Martha tells him. But Jesus does not stop. His love for Lazarus is much stronger than the resignation of Lazarus' sisters; it is much wiser than any reasoning or evidence of things. The Lord's love knows no boundaries, not even death. He wants the impossible. That tomb is not the final destination for Jesus' friends. This is why he shouts: "Lazarus come out!" His friend hears Jesus' voice and as it was written: "The sheep recognize his voice" and also : the good shepherd "calls his own sheep by name and leads them out" (Jn 10:3). The prophet Ezekiel had already reported God's words: "I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people" (Ez 37:12). Lazarus listens and he comes out. Jesus does not speak to a dead man, but a living one. If anything, one who was asleep and maybe that's why he shouts. He invites the others to take the cloth off Lazarus. But releasing the "dead" Lazarus Jesus is actually releasing each of us from our selfishness, our coldness, our indifference, from our dead feelings. An ancient eastern tradition says that, once risen, Lazarus ate only sweets. This is to emphasize that the life given by the Lord is sweet and beautiful; that the feelings the Lord puts on or hearts are strong and tender, robust and loving, and they defeat any bitterness and sourness. "I am the resurrection and the life," said the Lord. In his Gospel, in his body, life is risen again. "Lazarus, come out!" Jesus calls each of us by name. Our names mean everything about our lives. He defends our life from evil. His love is personal. Today, the friendship of God, which we see reflected in the friendship that he generates between men and women, calls our hearts and a world that has become tombs to joy. It calls the tombs of this world to joy. Lazarus foreshadows Easter when Jesus, friend of the suffering in every man and woman, will be overwhelmed by evil. Will we be able to stay with him and be moved for him? This is the choice of Lent.