Fifth Sunday of Lent
The Grace of Rebirth
First Reading : ( Ezra 37:12-14 ) : I will put my spirit within you and you shall live.
Second Reading : ( Rom 8:8-11 ) : Born again through the Spirit
Gospel : ( Jn 11:1-45) : Lazarus was raised from the dead
“My parents give me physical life but it is Bao who really knows me.” (1)
In Chapter Eleven of John's Gospel there is a long account of Jesus raising Lazarus to life.
Jesus is the Saviour of all humankind. Although all people are his friends, he had his own close friends and a special love for his compatriots. He very much loved the Jews which was why on one occasion he wept because he knew Jerusalem would one day be destroyed. Among his good friends, the family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary was one of his closest friends.
Today's story is about one time when Lazarus was seriously sick. His two sisters sent people to Jesus saying, ‘He whom you love is ill.’ When Jesus heard this he started out for their home. By the time he arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
Martha said to Jesus ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered him quite correctly, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? She answered him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.
Jesus and Martha went to the gravesite. Mary was already there. When she saw Jesus she knelt at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he grieved greatly. He was deeply moved and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They answered, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. He could not contain himself. The Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the man born blind have prevented this man’s death?’ Jesus continued to grieve deeply.
When Jesus came to the tomb he said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Jesus looked up, praised and thanked his Father, he cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ (Ref Jn 11:1-45)
Jesus is life and resurrection. Those who believe in him will not die, and. even if they die they will be raised to life.
The gift of life is very important. Our parents give us life, Christ has saved us. These gifts are the gifts of life. We are blessed also with the grace to help us understanding life itself and the meaning of life.
There is a story called “The Friendship between Guan and Bao” in Si Ma Qian's “Shiji (The Historical Records)”. It illustrates very well another important level about life.
Guan Zhong and Bao Shuya were friends. However, in the eyes of many people, Guan Zhong was not a good friend but a snob. Later Guan Zhong became very successful. Described his accomplishments as “Reuniting the feudal lords and uniting the world.” In his prosperity Guan Zhong remembered his friend, Bao Shu ya. He thought his present success was due entirely to Bo Shu ya.
He remembered when earlier they were business partners he often took more interest than his due. However, Bao Shu ya never considered this greedy because he realized that Guan Zhong was very poor. When the business failed Bao Shu ya did not think that Guan Zhong lacked aptitude because he believed that in every endeavour there were both gains and losses. Once during a war Guan Zhong deserted the battlefield three times. Others considered him a coward but Bao Shu ya never thought so. He reckoned that because Guan Zhong's old mother was still alive, he should not endanger his life and die in battle. Deep down Guan Zhong were a filial pious son and not a coward. Later the Prince lost the battle and the minister Zhou Hu, assumed responsibility, then committed suicide to apologize for the defeat. Guan Zhong did not volunteer to follow suit. Rather he accepted humiliation and became a prisoner of war. Everyone said he had no shame. However, Bao Shu ya thought that Guan Zhong did not follow the norm because he wanted to do greater things later to show the world his achievements.
Bao Shu ya always protected Guan Zhong, encouraged and appreciated him until eventually he made a name for himself. That was why Guan Zhong said emphatically, “My parents give me physical life but it is Bao who really knows me.” That is to say, his parents had given him birth but it was Bao who helped him achieve success and gave him a second life.
Concerning Jesus can we say the same with Guan Zhong, ‘My parents gave me birth but it is Christ who knows me’ or even say My parents gave me temporal life but it is Christ who has given me eternal life.’
We must always be grateful that our parents have given us life, but Jesus gave us another life, which is richer and is eternal. Should we not have unlimited gratitude?
Heavenly Father, we sincerely entreat you to give us new life. Help us to start a new life in Christ, a rebirth. May we understand how to love God and all humankind. May we understand how to love ourselves, others, the world, our entire life. Let us enrich our lives. May we be enabled to live life to the fullest.