Reflection on This Week’s Readings


Before it is anything else, today’s gospel is an up-close, deeply personal story of grief. Even the movements seem familiar: Jesus is on the way, then present to each sister. At last, he stands outside the tomb of his friend who has died, and whom the community mourns.

In today’s first reading, we are swept up with Ezekiel and deposited into a wilderness valley full of dry, dead bones. In the valley, God asks Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?” (Ezek. 37:3). Of Lazarus in our gospel reading for today, we, like Ezekiel, might also respond: “O Lord God, you know.” How can dry bones come to life? And how could a dead man ever possibly live again? Indeed, we might wonder if it will be enough, ever could be enough, that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). At the same time, we easily understand and echo Martha and Mary, who were both accusing angrily and confessing hopefully when they said, “Lord, if you had been here . . .” (John 11:21, 32).

As John tells it, Lazarus has been in the tomb four days by the time Jesus arrives. By then the whole village is awash in grief. When Jesus weeps too, they are amazed at his loving devotion: here is a strong sign of connection, a visible reminder that Jesus is truly present among human community, not above it. In the end, Jesus does what we could never imagine was even a remote possibility. He calls to the one entombed; he summons life, like the Spirit blowing over the valley in Ezekiel. God is up to something! Here, a sign of signs: God is making all things new.

New life is emerging from the tombs of our world and from the shadowed corners of our hearts. May Jesus’ resurrecting power be felt deep in our own bones!



The last of the great signs in the gospel of John is the raising of Lazarus. The church sees in the narrative of the raising of Lazarus and in the vision of the dry bones metaphors for baptism and for the renewed life of faith that is the intention of Lent. The Vigil is coming soon.
The church has seen in this last great Johannine sign a picture of baptism: we too were dead, but the word of Christ has called us from death and restored us to life in the Spirit. Thus Lent is our annual emerging from the grave, our helping to unbind one another for vibrant life together.
Christians have seen also in Ezekiel’s vision a picture of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. Both now and at the end we rise up in response to the word of the Lord. Through the power of the Spirit’s breath, baptism begins our new life, a life that will never end.
In the last of our four Lenten readings from Romans, Paul uses the language of death and life to describe the radical nature of the effect of the indwelling of Christ’s Spirit. We are now dead to sin, and the new life of Christ is already experienced here and how.

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