Preacher’s Sketchbook: Fifth Sunday of Lent

April 1, 2014

Preacher’s Sketchbook:

Sketchbook_Logo6Each week, a Dominican member of the Province of St. Joseph’s Preaching Advisory Board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.

Bl. Pope John Paul II, 1999

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” We can imagine the surprise that such an announcement caused in his listeners, who a short time later, however, were able to see the truth of Jesus’ words when, at his command, Lazarus, who had already been in the tomb for four days, came forth alive. An even more striking confirmation of this astonishing statement will be given later by Jesus when, by his own Resurrection, he will win the final victory over evil and death. What had been foretold many centuries before by the prophet Ezekiel in addressing the Israelites deported to Babylon: “I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live”, will become a reality in the paschal mystery and will be presented by the Apostle Paul as the essential core of the new life of believers: “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you”. Does this not show the timeliness of the Gospel message? In a society in which signs of death are increasing but in which at the same time a profound need for hope in life is felt, it is the mission of Christians to continue to proclaim Christ, man’s “resurrection and life”. Yes, faced with the signs of a creeping “culture of death”, Jesus’ great revelation must still be heard today: “I am the resurrection and the life”.

Bl. Pope John Paul II, 2003

Society today is tragically fragmented and divided. This is the reason why it is so desperately unfulfilled. But Christians do not become resigned to weariness or paralyzed by inertia. May you be a people of hope! May you be a people which prays: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live”. May you be a people which believes in the Word spoken by God and accomplished in Christ: “I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord”.

St. John Chrysostom, On Romans

Rom 8:8: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. What then? Are we, it will be said, to cut our bodies in pieces to please God, and to make our escape from the flesh? and would you have us be homicides, and so lead us to virtue? You see what inconsistencies are gendered by taking the words literally. For by “the flesh” in this passage, he does not mean the body, or the essence of the body, but that life which is fleshly and worldly, and uses self-indulgence and extravagance to the full, so making the entire man flesh. For as they that have the wings of the Spirit, make the body also spiritual, so do they who bound off from this, and are the slaves of the belly, and of pleasure, make the soul also flesh, not that they change the essence of it, but that they mar its noble birth.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, IIIa, q48, a4

Man is said to belong to God in two ways. First of all, in so far as he comes under God’s power: in which way he never ceased to belong to God; according to : “The Most High ruleth over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” Secondly, by being united to Him in charity, according to Rm 8,9: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” In the first way, then, man never ceased to belong to God, but in the second way he did cease because of sin. And therefore in so far as he was delivered from sin by the satisfaction of Christ’s Passion, he is said to be redeemed by the Passion of Christ.

St. Ambrose, Exposition on the Christian Faith

Not without the Father does Christ work; not without His Father’s Will did He offer Himself for that most holy Passion, the Victim slain for the salvation of the whole world; not without His Father’s Will concurring did He raise the dead to life. For example, when He was at the point to raise Lazarus to life, He lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank Thee, for that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou dost always hear Me, but for the sake of the multitude that standeth round I spake, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me,” in order that, though speaking agreeably to His assumed character of man, in the flesh, He might still express His oneness with the Father in will and operation, in that the Father hears all and sees all that the Son wills, and therefore also the Father sees the Son’s doings, hears the utterances of His Will, for the Son made no request, and yet said that He had been heard.

St. Augustine, Sermon 48

There remained a third case, that He should raise one who was also buried; and this He did in Lazarus. There are then those who have sin inwardly in the heart, but have it not yet in overt act. A man, for instance, is disturbed by any lust. For the Lord Himself says, “Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” He has not yet in body approached her, but in heart he has consented; he has one dead within, he has not yet carried him out. And as it often happens, as we know, as men daily experience in themselves, when they hear the word of God, as it were the Lord saying, “Arise;” the consent unto sin is condemned, they breathe again unto saving health and righteousness. The dead man in the house arises, the heart revives in the secret of the thoughts. This resurrection of a dead soul takes place within, in the retirement of the conscience, as it were within the walls of the house. Others after consent proceed to overt act, carrying out the dead as it were, that that which was concealed in secret, may appear in public. Are these now, who have advanced to the outward act, past hope? Was it not said to the young man in the Gospel also, “I say unto you, Arise”? Was he not also restored to his mother? So then he too who has committed the open act, if haply admonished and aroused by the word of truth, he rise again at the Voice of Christ, is restored alive. Go so far he could, perish for ever he could not. But they who by doing what is evil, involve themselves even in evil habit, so that this very habit of evil suffers them not to see that it is evil, become defenders of their evil deeds; are angry when they are found fault with; to such a degree, that the men of Sodom of old said to the righteous man who reproved their abominable design, “You have come to sojourn, not to give laws.” So powerful in that place was the habit of abominable filthiness, that profligacy now passed for righteousness, and the hinderer of it was found fault with rather than the doer. Such as these pressed down by a malignant habit, are as it were buried. Yea, what shall I say, Brethren? In such sort buried, as was said of Lazarus, “By this time he stinks.” That heap placed upon the grave, is this stubborn force of habit, whereby the soul is pressed down, and is not suffered either to rise, or breathe again.  



Fifth Sunday of Lent

Additional Preaching Resources

✠ Image: The Raising of Lazarus from the Kalskirche, Vienna

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