Fifth Sunday of Lent - Year A
I WILL OPEN YOUR GRAVES
The people of the Old Testament did not believe in life after death in the same way that we do. They thought that all who died ended up in a vague sort of existence called "Sheol" or "Shadow Land". The idea of posthumous reward or punishment only came in the last few centuries before Christ. When Ezekiel speaks of "opening graves" he is probably referring to the symbolic burial of those living in exile. The people of Israel were living as slaves in Babylon (Iraq). The prophet uses a poetic view of exile as a form of living death. He believes that the people will be returned to Jerusalem in a symbolic "resurrection". He also uses this image in his depiction of the dry bones returning to life. (Ez 37:1-14) It is a masterpiece of imaginative poetry.
The story of Lazarus' resurrection is beautiful preparation for Easter. Lazarus is brought to life by Jesus, who will restore his own body. One of the less noticed, but still important aspects of the story, though, is the growth of Lazarus' sister Martha. We first saw her as the fussy, ever-busy hostess at a party for Christ. She is indignant that her sister Mary is dreamily lost in contemplation of Jesus. She demands that the Lord chasten Mary for her indifference to the cares of hospitality. Jesus chides her for being concerned about "too many things". Now, some time later, Martha has "come to believe" that Jesus is the messiah, the promised one. It is interesting to note that the Church does not observe a separate feast for Mary or Lazarus, but does hold a holy day for Martha. Her growth is a vital lesson in spirituality.
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