Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
For the Fifth Sunday of Lent praying the Missal of Paul VI, we are told once again the source of our total fulfillment in this, and in the next life: Jesus’ promise to us of life eternal. (In the Missal of John XXIII it is Passion Sunday.) When all seemed lost after four days of grave, the Lord gives his dead friend a supreme gift! This grace is not the permanent gift of life as Lazarus was destined to die again but this moment is a clear indication of who Jesus is when He uses the “I am” statement. The great question of all time is “who is Jesus?” Hence, this is the beginning of something that would change everything in the cosmos: resurrection of the body. In Angelus address today Pope Francis said, “As Jesus rose with His own body, but did not return to an earthly life, so we will rise with our bodies that will be transfigured into glorious bodies. He waits for us next to the Father, and the strength of the Holy Spirit, that resuscitated Him, will all raise those who are united to Him.”
The Lazarus event begs us to ask, what does this mean? What is my place in this event of resurrection?
Pope Francis concludes his Angelus remarks, and this is crucial:
The act of Jesus by which He raised Lazarus demonstrates the end to which the power of the Grace of God can arrive, and the end, therefore to which our conversion, our change can arrive. But listen well: there is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! Remember this phrase. And we can all say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” Let us say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” The Lord is always ready to take away the tombstone of our sins, which separate us from Him, the light of the living.
Saint Augustine tells us “Among all the miracles done by our Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Lazarus holds a prime place in preaching. But if we consider attentively who did it, our duty is to rejoice rather than to wonder. A man was raised up by him who made humankind. He is the only one of the Father by whom, as you know, all things were made. And if all things were made by him, why is anyone amazed that one was raised by him when so many are daily brought into the world by his power? It is a greater deed to create men and women than to raise them again from the dead. Yet he decided both to create and to raise again; to create all, to resuscitate some.”
The friendship of Lord and the intimacy that this fact manifests for us is itself an indication of the love God has for each of us while showing us that outside forces are not exhausted.
Walking through Lent the Church gives us key glimpses, that is, tastes through the liturgical narrative leading to Pascha (Easter).
The icon shows Lazarus being untied of his burial shroud. In fact, this metaphor of being untied is key: the crucified and risen Lord unties us of our sin to live in freedom.
A hymn at Lenten Vespers is revealing:
“O Lord, while dwelling in the flesh on the other side of Jordan, Thou hast foretold that the sickness of Lazarus would not end in death, but that it had come to pass for Thy glory, O our God. Glory to Thy mighty acts and Thine all-sovereign power, for Thou hast destroyed death in Thy great mercy and Thy love for mankind.”
The annual lenten retreat for the Pope and the curia is not at the Apostolic Palace. This year, the Spiritual Exercises are being given at a retreat house of the Pauline Family, in Ariccia [site of the composition of the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World of Vatican II], a town about 20 miles southeast of Rome. Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, a popular spiritual director and Roman pastor in the city center of Rome. The retreat runs March 9-14.
Like Pope Francis and others, we need to sit and listen to the Word of God. Are you spending time in prayer?
“Those who live a retreat in an authentic way,” the pope recently said, “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”
Francis met March 3 with an Italian federation of spiritual directors and those who run retreat houses throughout the country, offering Christians “space and time to listen intensely to the word of God in silence and in prayer.”
May the Holy Spirit be with those making the Exercises.
Today’s Angelus Address of the Pope gave a wonderful reminder of how you live your spiritual life –or not. This Pope is good for telling us that the devil is lurking, tempting humanity and trying to compromise our faithfulness to God. In my experience I am happy that Francis is pointing out that we need to be careful not try to overpower the enticements of the Evil One. He’s not to be fooled with; pay attention to the Holy Father.
The Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent each year presents the story of Jesus’ temptations, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon Him after His baptism in the Jordan, urged Him to openly confront Satan in the wilderness for forty days, before beginning His public mission.
The tempter tries to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the path of sacrifice, of love that offers itself in expiation; to make Him take an easy road, [a road] of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan is takes place with quotations from the Holy Scriptures. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the Cross, makes present to him the false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a spectacular and miraculous style, with the idea of casting Himself down from the highest point of the Temple of Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and finally the shortcut of power and domination, in exchange for an act of worship to Satan. There are three groups of temptations. We also know them well.
Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reaffirms [His] firm intention to follow the path established by the Father, without any compromise with sin or with the logic of the world. Note well how Jesus responds: He doesn’t dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the terrestrial Paradise. Jesus knows well that one can’t dialogue with Satan, because he is so cunning. For this reason, instead of dialoguing, as Eve did, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and to respond with the power of this Word. Let us remind ourselves of this in the moment of temptation, of our temptation: not arguing with Satan, but defending ourselves with the Word of God. And this will save us. In His responses to Satan, the Lord — using the Word of God — reminds us, first, that “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3), and this gives us strength, sustains us in the fight against the worldly mentality that lowers human beings to the level of their basic needs, causing them to lose the hunger for what is true, good, and beautiful, the hunger for God and His love. He also recalls, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” ( v. 7) , because the road of faith also passes through darkness, doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Jesus notes, finally, that “it is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve,’” that is, we must get rid of idols, of vanities, and build our lives on the essentials.
These words of Jesus will then find concrete responses in His actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead Him, after about three years, to the final confrontation with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), in the hour of the Passion and of the Cross, and there Jesus will achieve His final victory, the victory of love!
Dear brothers and sisters, Lent is a favorable opportunity for all of us to make a journey of conversion, sincerely confronting ourselves with this page of the Gospel. We renew the promises of our Baptism: we renounce Satan and all his works and seductions — because he is a seducer, right? — in order to walk the paths of God and “to arrive at Easter in the joy of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Collect of the First Sunday of Lent, Year A).