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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, April 6, 2014

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

April 6, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Cycle A. Readings:

1) Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

2) Romans 8:8-11

Gospel: John 11:1-45 or John 11:3-7, 20-27, 33b-45

I have a large family and I've also been on several parish staffs, so I've attended more than my share of funerals. Most of the families of the deceased espoused a belief in an afterlife, which gave them a great deal of comfort in their loss.

If you talk to an atheist about the death of a loved one, he or she likely would write off religious belief in an afterlife as an emotional crutch to alleviate one's grief, or might claim that the dead person lives on in the descendants' genetic material and in the energy of the deceased's subatomic particles transferred to some other form of existence.

If I thought faith in God were only an "insurance policy" against my eternal mortality, or if I believed in a God who didn't care about my losses or share my grief, I might take the same approach. But as a believer and follower of Jesus, I can't go there.

In the Gospel, Jesus weeps at the loss of his friend Lazarus. Martha takes comfort in the belief that her brother will rise "on the last day." However, Jesus counters that there is even more to it than that, saying that those who believe in him will never die, and even if they die, they will live. Martha "gets it." She professes that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of God."

But how does one make sense of Jesus' cryptic statement? And why doesn't everyone "get it"? It boils down to the way that one defines "life." One can be physically alive and still live as though dead; one can be dying and yet never be more fully alive.

If our lives merely begin and end with the transfer of genetic material, I'm not content with that. I want more. Not because I fear my mortality, but because I want to live fully in the here and now.

Ezekiel and Paul affirm that it is the promised spirit of God, alive in us, that makes this possible. This is what Jesus, the Christ, has promised to give. This is what faith convinces me has been already accomplished in him. And this is the abundant life that I choose. May the mourners who attend my funeral rejoice!


What gives you comfort when you experience the death of a loved one? What would the fullness of abundant life look like in your situation?


"Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." -- John 11:25-26


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