5th Sunday of Lent

In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  In Saint John’s Gospel, this is the last of the public signs that Jesus performed before He triumphantly enters Jerusalem and then underwent His Passion.

The raising of Lazarus shows Our Lord’s authority over life and death.  Jesus demonstrated that He had power over life and death right before He laid down His own life and then took it up again.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead was a powerful sign of Our Lord’s divinity; because of this miracle, many Jews came to believe in Him.

At the same time, others who also witnessed the miracle sought to put Jesus to death.  Our Gospel reading today stopped at verse 45; the next few lines in Saint John’s Gospel go on to tell us that the Pharisees “from that day on” planned to kill Jesus.  How is it that this miracle produced opposite effects in different people?  How is it that the raising of a dead man to life could draw some people to belief and yet at the same time drive others to plot murder?  The answer lies in the fact that we all have free will and God will not take our free will away from us.  The crowd that followed Jesus had minds and hearts that were open.  They saw His miracles and came to believe because of them.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, had already made a decision about Jesus: they had already rejected Him and therefore there wasn’t any sign or miracle that He could perform that could change their minds.  They did not see because they did not want to see.

Faith works the same way today.  In order to believe in the Gospel and in the Teachings of the Church we have to approach with minds and hearts that are open.  If we start with a skeptical mind and a heart that refuses to believe, the Gospel will have no effect on us.  Someone who stubbornly refuses to open his or her eyes will never see the light.  In order to be able to perceive the light, one has to be willing to open one’s eyes.  This is not to say that we cannot use our reason.  God gave us an intellect; faith and reason are meant to work together.  We can ask questions about our faith; we can study the Scriptures in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of them.  Yet if we do not approach Scripture and Tradition with a basic openness to faith they will not lead us closer to God, which is their purpose.  Faith and reason are closely related: our faith opens us to understanding; the more we understand what we believe, the easier it becomes to believe and then to put that belief into practice.  Faith without reason leads to superstition or fundamentalism: reason without faith leads to relativism, materialism and selfishness.  Faith and reason need one another, because God created us with both a mind and a soul.  Our faith calls us both to believe and to use our minds.

God reveals enough to us for us to be able to believe, yet He does not reveal Himself in such a way that we are forced to believe.  There are arguments for why belief is reasonable, but arguments alone are not enough to convert people to Christianity.  That being said, we should always be ready and willing to offer reasons for why we are Christian, but helping someone become a Christian is not a matter of winning an intellectual argument: it is a matter of bringing someone to know Christ.  People don’t become Christian on account of reason alone.  Arguments can help lead a person to faith, but at some point each person has to make an act of faith for themselves.

Living a Christian life is about being in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  As we live out our Christian faith we are help others encounter Christ for themselves.  Our words and our actions can either help or hinder others from coming to know Christ.  Understanding our Faith helps us to live it; it can also help us talk to others about it.  Most of you know that I am a convert to the Catholic Faith: the reason that I even considered coming into the Church was because I encountered a Catholic who knew their faith and they were willing to share it with me.  They didn’t have all the answers, but they were able to give me reasons to look at coming into the Church.

Each and every one of you is called to be light in the world.  Faith is a gift that has been given to us and it is a gift that is meant to be shared.  You and I are called to bear witness to Christ.  I challenge each person here to look for an opportunity to share your faith with someone this week.  There are always opportunities if we are willing to look for them.

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to bear witness to You in our daily lives by our actions and by our words.  Give those who do not know you hearts and minds that are open to coming to know You.  May we never shrink back from bearing witness to You, Lord.  Help us to truly live our faith and do all that we do for Your greater glory and honor.  Amen.

 

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