FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Celebration of Confirmation
2 April 2017, St. Anton in Zürich
Jn 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45
“Lazarus, here! Come out!”
“…if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.”
“Lazarus, here! Come out!”
Dead in sin or alive to God in Jesus Christ? Our choice in life is just that fundamental, radical you might say. Jesus would invite us, both the confirmands and all here present, to something more in terms of a lived faith in Him, Who brings life and conquers sin and death.
The family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, two girls and a boy, most likely all three young adults in their twenties, maybe orphaned already and living on their own in the family home at Bethany! As the scene opens, we hear that the young man Lazarus dies! Jesus comes up to Judaea from Galilee at the sad news and raises him from the dead. Jesus changes everything, not so much by giving young Lazarus a second chance at life here on earth as by giving substance to His dialogue with Martha, the teaching for today from St. John’s Gospel:
“Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her, ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies, he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’”
Martha knew what she was saying. Our young people here too know about the importance of our life in God. I mean these nine young people, who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Gift or Seal of the Holy Spirit given to them to complete and strengthen the grace of their Baptism. Confirmation is given to them so they can live more intensely at one with Jesus in their everyday lives and Who comes to them Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.
‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent the Church invites us to enter into Passiontide, the most intense part of our Easter preparation. In union with the Cross of Christ, we face head on the great Mystery of His life-giving Suffering and Death (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). I suppose somebody could ask why not wait until Pentecost to celebrate Confirmation? The question is fair enough, but my answer would be that in the powerful Gospel and Scripture teaching we have on this Sunday we have a wealth of teaching to sustain us and teach us about this Sacrament. For Confirmation, we could hardly do better as we hear in today’s readings about the Holy Spirit Who gives life, raising His People, as the Prophet Ezekiel says, and putting them on the path back to their homeland.
Martha, Mary and Lazarus were close friends of Jesus. When He was in Jerusalem he stayed in their home; they knew Him and believed Him to be the one promised by God. Their faith, however, came to perfection and took on a completely new dimension and power, as Jesus initiated them into the mystery of His Death and Resurrection. His Death upon the Cross would bring His Exaltation, breaking the bonds of sin, death and the devil, opening for us the Gates of Heaven, so that we might enter already now into the life of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is a foreshadowing of the victory to be ours through the outpouring of the Spirit. Jesus commands: “Lazarus, here! Come out!”
I know from their letters to me that these young people certainly have that same faith which Martha had in Jesus: ‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
By the grace of this Sacrament of Confirmation, let us hope and pray that they and we will allow ourselves to be surprised, disarmed and conquered by the power of Christ. May they and we be willing, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, to fight for the life of our world, strengthened every Sunday by the graces flowing from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! May they and we nurture a life of daily personal prayer, at meals, when we get up in the morning and go to bed at night! May they and we ask of the priest in the confessional, in the individual celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, for the forgiveness we need for the sins and failings of thought, word or deed, commission or omission, which might have disfigured the life of our souls after Baptism!
We rejoice in the abundant gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit. We pray that our faith may not only grow but be transfigured as was the faith, the good faith of Martha, which became something truly dynamic in and through Jesus’ miracle of life restored to her brother: “Lazarus, here! Come out!”
My best wishes to the confirmands and their families! Greetings for Holy Week and Easter to the English speaking Catholic Mission of Zürich here at St. Anton! In Christ Jesus all things are possible to those who profess faith in His power to save us and give us life now and for eternity.
Praised be Jesus Christ both now and forever!
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI