Fifth Sunday of Lent (3rd Scrutiny – Cycle A Readings) – March 17, 2013

  • Ezekiel 37:12-14
  • Romans 8:8-11
  • John 11:1-45

What joy and hope we all experienced this week when we realized it was white smoke billowing out of the Sistine Chapel chimney; and then the hour-long wait to find out who our new Holy Father would be.  And what a choice the Cardinals made as they followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Tears came to my eyes as Pope Francis asked the world to bless him and then bowed down in an act of total humility – truly showing what it means to be the servant to the servants of God.  We must continue to pray for him as he takes on this most awesome of tasks – being the Vicar of Christ on earth as he leads the Catholic Church.  It’s an exciting time to be Catholic.

Our Elect are in the final stages of preparation as they await reception of the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. Today they will participate in the 3rd and final Scrutiny.  My dear Elect, I have to admit that I am quite envious of you as you prepare to begin your new life in Christ at the Easter Vigil.  I am a cradle Catholic.  I never had the opportunity to make an adult decision to embrace the faith.  We Catholics don’t make it easy to enter the Church do we?  No we don’t.  But yet here you are, responding to the call of the Holy Spirit in your lives as you’ve been praying, studying, and discerning over these past several months.  What a gift you have been given.

During the Scrutiny today, you will hear Father Richard  pray over you at one point in these words, “Free from the grasp of death those who await your life-giving Raising_Lazarus_Byzantine_Icon
sacraments and deliver them from the spirit of corruption.”  We will pray along with Father for you and with you; that God fully prepare your hearts and souls so that you are fully ready to receive the gift of new life through the waters of Baptism.

How appropriate we have today’s powerful Gospel as part of this 3rd Scrutiny.  Jesus demonstrates his full power as the Son of the Father.  He tells Martha, he tells our Elect and he tells all of us, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  It’s Jesus who gives life to those who believe in him.

In two weeks, you Elect will stand in line over there by our beautiful new Baptismal font.  You will descend, one at a time, down the steps into the waters of new life.  You will bow down in the water and place yourself in our Bishop’s hands. He will plunge you into the water three times, and three times bring you up, invoking each member of the Holy Trinity as he does so.  In those moments, your soul will be forever changed.  Your soul will literally die, with all vestiges of sin finally purged.  And just as Lazarus emerged from the tomb, you will emerge from the baptismal waters a new creation; an adopted son or Surrenderdaughter of our heavenly Father.

I give you one phrase that I hope you will remember as you step down into the Baptismal font – and that phrase is “surrender to Christ.” Surrender to Christ all that you are; surrender your life; surrender control; surrender your will; surrender your plans and place yourself spiritually and physically into the Bishop’s hands.  Bishop Gainer, acting in “Persona Christi,” the person of Christ, will accompany you as you are truly made into a new creation.  Surrender to Christ.  That is my hope for you.

Church!  This message is not just for our Catechumens!  Those of us already baptized ARE truly sons and daughters of a loving Father and we should rejoice in that.  Even if we can’t remember our baptism, it is a reality and the Holy Spirit lives within us.  The grace we received in Baptism and since through the Sacraments is real.  But we need to tend to it.  We need to make sure that we cooperate with that grace to stay in God’s will and in God’s way.

In our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is explaining the difference between those who live in the flesh and those who live in the Spirit.  He says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  The flesh is our sinful nature and our sin; and in our sin we cannot please God.  But further on St. Paul says, “If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”  We who are baptized have the “Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead” living within us.  The question is, “Are we cooperating with the grace we received in our own Baptism and through all of the sacraments we’ve received since then.”

We have just over a week left in Lent to examine ourselves. Are we living in the flesh, turned away from the light of Christ?  Restoration to life in the Spirit is 14693_455422657854596_83138451_navailable through the doors of these Confessionals.  If you have not recently participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of God’s mercy, you still have several opportunities before Lent comes to a close.  This Wednesday, you can come before the 5:30pm Mass or from 6:30-8pm for the last evening of Bishop Gainer’s “The Light is on for you” initiative.  You can come Saturday at the regular times and a week from this Wednesday is the Parish Reconciliation Service.  You have every opportunity to make that turn back to the light of Christ during these last days of Lent.  Turn and allow Jesus, through his priest, to break the chains of sin.  Let him restore you to the fullness of freedom that God intends for those who love him and believe in him.