Monday, March 14, 2016

Second Chances

The Word of God for the 5th Sunday of Lent gives us two powerful Gospel readings from John: one if we are celebrating the “examination” for the candidates who will receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil; and the Second Gospel, for the other Liturgies.

Lazarus raised from the Dead
First, we have the Lazarus story.  A good friend of Jesus becomes ill; his sisters send word. And when Jesus arrives, his friend has been in the tomb for 4 days.  Lazarus' sister Martha is upset, saying: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus responds: “I am the resurrection and the life...; they who believe in me will live...”  And then Jesus calls Lazarus back to physical life.

I wonder whether this changed Lazarus' life dramatically.  Did he do anything differently?  In some ways, we are like Lazarus.  We have been given many “second chances,” so to speak.  Are we doing anything differently in light of this?

Jesus dies/rises to inaugurate our resurrection.  We are “new creatures,” adopted sons and daughters of God our Father, called to live a God-centered life, a life worthy of our calling.  Yes, the Triune God is alive in us and we are alive in the Triune God. We leave behind the burial wrappings of vice, so to speak, so that we can put on virtue.

Lazarus symbolizes the faithful disciple, the true believer who will live.

In the second Gospel, Jesus meets the woman caught in an adulterous relationship.  In so many words, Jesus says to us in this story: don’t be so negatively judgmental about other people.  All of us need forgiveness.

That’s why Jesus came: to forgive, heal, transform us, save us from death and propel us into a glorious future.  This story invites us to reflect on our own willingness to forgive people: a primary characteristic of discipleship.

We have to forgive ourselves as well as others so that we can move forward with our life.  

Let me illustrate with a favorite book, The Hiding Place, in which Corrie Ten Boom describes how she lectured in post-WWII Europe about the need to forgive.

After one of her talks, a former SS guard came up to her.  She recognized him. She remembered the laughing guards, and the frightened face of her sister. When this repentant man extended his hand to shake hers, she had angry thoughts.  Lord Jesus, she prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

She tried to raise her hand.  She couldn’t.  So again she breathed a silent prayer: Jesus, I can’t forgive him for what he did.  Give me your forgiveness.   

Forgiveness is possible when we trust in God. And as God searches out the lost, so should we.

The story of Lazarus indicates our destiny: eternal life in relationship with God and one another.

And the story of the adulterous woman invites us to forgive one another.  It can be a long journey but at the end lies freedom and new life.

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