1 Sm. 16:1b, 6-7, 10:13a; Ps. 23; Eph. 5:8-14; Jn. 9:1-41
(Audio recorded live, 26 March 2023)
The prophet Ezekiel foreshadows for us the coming resurrection. The Lords says, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” At the time, the people of Israel had been conquered by Babylon. They witnessed the deaths of many and were being deported to far away lands. Their shrines were being profaned with images of foreign gods and their Temple taken over. Surrounded by so much death and destruction has a profound effect on the hearts and minds of the people, especially those who witness it. It was to this defeated people that the Lord gave them the promise of a future resurrection. He says, “I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land….” In other words, the Lord will restore Israel. Historically, there was indeed a restoration brought through an unlikely candidate, King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, who defeated the Babylonians and had the Israelites returned to their home land. Yet, while those in exile were restored to their land, the dead still remained in their graves. There was no bodily resurrection at that time, although the idea of returning home would have felt like a resurrection. In this sense, the people were given a second chance, not only at life, but to worship their God aright. After all, it was because of their own wickedness and sin that God allowed them to be exiled in the first place. All sin has consequences. It is no different for us today. But, as the psalmist says, “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”
St. Paul has us consider another aspect of our Christian life, namely, who we are as children of the Most High God. He says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” In other words, there is so much more to us than what meets the eye. We are embodied spirits. The flesh is only part of a unified whole of body and soul. What St. Paul is driving home to the Romans, however, is that those who are baptized have Christ in them. The Church teaches that through baptism, we are “configured to Christ by an indelible character,” that is, a seal, like the fingerprint of Almighty God on our soul. Through baptism, men and women are freed from sin and are reborn as children of God. In this sense, those who are baptized have already died to the world, but are born anew as a child of God, through Christ Jesus the Lord. This also is a type of resurrection, but actual. It is a sign, rather, of what is to come.
In our gospel, Jesus performs the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, yet another sign of the future resurrection. The dialogue between Martha and Jesus shows her coming to a deeper appreciation for who Jesus is and what he is offering the world. Martha says to Jesus, “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus replies, “Your brother will rise.” But, notice how Martha’s faith is already focused on the last day. She says, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” What she fails to mention is who will be responsible for that resurrection, so Jesus strengthens her faith by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And just to be absolutely certain, he asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” She responds, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” In this short dialogue, we see the progression of faith, from belief in an afterlife, to belief in Jesus Christ, who is the life. That is why St. Paul stresses, “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
Those who are baptized indeed belong to Christ, not as some possession, but as the redeemed. His death on the cross was the price he paid for each of us. And as the first born of the dead, he shows us that he is indeed the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this? May the communion we share today unite us in the truth of Christ, who is the resurrection and the life.