Sunday Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Sharing in the Death and Resurrection of Christ

The story of the raising of Lazarus from the grave is used in the liturgy of Lent because it illustrates baptism as dying and rising with Christ.  Jesus did not respond immediately to the news that Lazarus was seriously ill but he waited three full days until Lazarus was well and truly dead.  He told the Apostles, “This sickness will end, not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.”

Since the majority of people being baptised nowadays are children, the sacrament is celebrated with three tiny pourings of water on the child’s head.  In the early Church, the sacrament was celebrated with entry into a pool of water before emerging on the other side to be clad in a white garment.  Entering the pool symbolised entering the tomb with Christ:  coming out in the white garment symbolised the new life in Christ.

No writer has been so aware of the rhythm of dying and rising with Christ as Saint Paul.   Some of his key texts are worth repeating.

Romans 6:3-4

“You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised into his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the death by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life”.  This is the classical statement of the double symbolism of baptismal water, meaning death to sin and new life in Christ.

Philippians 3:10-11

“All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death.”  Paul’s deepest longing was to be totally absorbed in the death and resurrection of Christ. 

2 Corinthians 4:10-11

“Always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.  Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown.”  Paul had to face problems, opposition and persecution but he accepted it all as his chance to share in the passion of Jesus.

It was Paul, more than anybody else who developed the theology of the sacrament of Christening.

We are just two weeks away from the climax of the Christian year when we renew our baptismal commitment around the candle of the risen Lord.  In dying with Christ we reject the ways of Satan and commit ourselves to a life of light which  glorifies the Father.  The restoration of Lazarus to life anticipates our baptismal sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ the Saviour.

Cafe Cappuccino, News, Prayer Space