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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday, April 10 - Mass Readings and Discussion

Welcome to the Awakened Christian Blog!  Good afternoon and God's blessings upon all of you.  This week, as we come ever closer to Palm Sunday and the sum of the Easter experience, we're once again reminded of our special place within creation and the unending love that our God has for us.

Here's the first reading: Ez 37:12-14
12 So, prophesy. Say to them, "The Lord Yahweh says this: I am now going to open your graves; I shall raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel.
13 And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people,
14 and put my spirit in you, and you revive, and I resettle you on your own soil. Then you will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken and done this -- declares the Lord Yahweh.

Ezekiel uses this opportunity to remind us of the promise to bring us from death into life.  This is an interesting passage, as it talks of the lifting from the grave and leading us back to the "soil of Israel". 

Is this the real soil of Israel (literal location) or is it the "promised land" of engaged life with God?  We get a clue of this in the next section when he says "put my spirit in you, and you revive, and I resettle you on your own soil".

Ah, there it is.  Not in the actual land of Israel will we be when we return from death, but to the awakened and fully living state of being, back in our "own soil".  What exactly or where exactly is that?

I propose that Ezekiel speaks of Yahweh's promise to revive us from "death", which is living dead in a world without God.  This is the world where we choose our sum of being based on earthy values (job, money, house, cars, etc.) and not on the values of our creator (alive, alert, sensitive, loving and happy).  This is a life without fear, and a life of true happiness (bliss...not one of thrills).  

What does this passage say to you?

We are further consoled from our fear of rejection, when we are reminded of the ever-steady love and forgiveness from our God:

Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

1 [Song of Ascents] From the depths I call to you, Yahweh:
2 Lord, hear my cry. Listen attentively to the sound of my pleading!
3 If you kept a record of our sins, Lord, who could stand their ground?
4 But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.
5 I rely, my whole being relies, Yahweh, on your promise.
6 My whole being hopes in the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak; more than watchmen for daybreak
7 let Israel hope in Yahweh. For with Yahweh is faithful love, with him generous ransom;
8 and he will ransom Israel from all its sins.

We are given further instruction in this idea of new life, in the letter to the Romans.  See the next reading:

Rom 8:8-11

8 and those who live by their natural inclinations can never be pleasing to God.
9 You, however, live not by your natural inclinations, but by the Spirit, since the Spirit of God has made a home in you. Indeed, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
10 But when Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is alive because you have been justified;
11 and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead has made his home in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

We are further told, through the raising of Lazarus, how Jesus reminds us that it's our faith in His way, that will bring us back to life:

Gospel, Jn 11:1-45

1 There was a man named Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha, and he was ill.
2 It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair.
3 The sisters sent this message to Jesus, 'Lord, the man you love is ill.'
4 On receiving the message, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death, but it is for God's glory so that through it the Son of God may be glorified.'
5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
6 yet when he heard that he was ill he stayed where he was for two more days
7 before saying to the disciples, 'Let us go back to Judaea.'
8 The disciples said, 'Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews were trying to stone you; are you going back there again?'
9 Jesus replied: Are there not twelve hours in the day? No one who walks in the daytime stumbles, having the light of this world to see by;
10 anyone who walks around at night stumbles, having no light as a guide.
11 He said that and then added, 'Our friend Lazarus is at rest; I am going to wake him.'
12 The disciples said to him, 'Lord, if he is at rest he will be saved.'
13 Jesus was speaking of the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by 'rest' he meant 'sleep';
14 so Jesus put it plainly, 'Lazarus is dead;
15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.'
16 Then Thomas -- known as the Twin -- said to the other disciples, 'Let us also go to die with him.'
17 On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already.
18 Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem,
19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house.
21 Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,
22 but even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.'
23 Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'
24 Martha said, 'I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.'
25 Jesus said: I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live,
26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?
27 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.'
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, 'The Master is here and wants to see you.'
29 Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him.
30 Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him.
31 When the Jews who were in the house comforting Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
32 Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'
33 At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who had come with her, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said,
34 'Where have you put him?' They said, 'Lord, come and see.'
35 Jesus wept;
36 and the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him!'
37 But there were some who remarked, 'He opened the eyes of the blind man. Could he not have prevented this man's death?'
38 Sighing again, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening.
39 Jesus said, 'Take the stone away.' Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 'Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day since he died.'
40 Jesus replied, 'Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?'
41 So they took the stone away. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
42 I myself knew that you hear me always, but I speak for the sake of all these who are standing around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.
43 When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'
44 The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, let him go free.'
45 Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him.

What are we to do to be given this return to life?  How are we to determine if we're alive or dead in the first place?  Here's a discussion about that:

Alive or dead?  It's easier than you can imagine, and very difficult to reconcile.  It can be as painful as dying, since it's through dying, we're told, that we'll find true life in Jesus.  What does that mean, in practical terms?  A lot!  It's not just the saints who are able to live the way Jesus spoke of.  Let's take a look at the saint's reference of this life in Jesus:

1. A life without worldly attachments:
If you can understand that you are a creation of God, in the image (your soul) of God, you might be able to catch a glimpse of this.  You must also believe that you have the capacity to be an eternal being.  Eternal being (all time), not just starting at your death.  You are and always were.  You will continue to be so, after you die.  This is utterly important, since you'll have to understand that this life on Earth is temporary, so we should keep things in a certain "temporary" perspective.

If you have anything in your beliefs or inculturation that is borrowed, you know it to be false.  Let's look at a list:

Nationality - This is a convention.  This has nothing to do with the reality of living a life with God.  If we move to a different country we change.  The Romans were taken over from the barbarians.  At that moment, their identity had to change.  They can no longer identify with this extinct idea of being a "Roman".

Culture - This is also a convention for us to find social "belonging".

Social Status - This is false as well, as it's all a comparison to another person.  All people are virtually connected and completely different, so there can never be a scorecard or yardstick to make an accurate judgement, let alone a determination of positive or negative.

These are just a few, but if these things cause you pain when they are threatened, you know that they are false.  Once you realize that these are things to be borrowed and returned (like a library book), they are put in the proper perspective.  Only then do we note that we get that feeling of being "bulletproof", like a peaceful person on a walk through an active battlefield, untouched by the violence.

The best part, we're told is that God does all the work for us.  All we have to do is drop our baggage to receive it.  Like a jar full of garbage, it can't take in the fine wine until emptied and cleaned. 

Furthermore, there's nothing we can do to earn it, since it's given freely.  It's not for our merit, but done so that God can be glorified through our great fortune! 

Be free!  Don't let someone else's borrowed concepts be your prison any longer.  See the valuable gifts that we can take from our churches, their sacraments and their ceremony.  These are tools and gateways to understanding and build a significant pathway to God.  They are impaired, however, unless we begin to understand what we are, what the world is and have faith that God wants us to live in heaven on earth, and certainly into eternity.

May the consolations of heaven be yours today!