Sunday Sermon for March 26, 2023, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

Readings: Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45

In the first reading today, God promises us through the Prophet Ezekiel that He will open the graves of His people and have them rise from their graves.  This is the promise of the resurrection.  This needs to be made clear because in the Gospel reading we hear about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Our Lord literally commanded that the tomb be opened, then called Lazarus to come out from the grave.  This was not a resurrection of Lazarus; it was a resuscitation.  Poor Lazarus, after having been dead and buried for four days, would have to die again!

Nonetheless, this was an astounding miracle that demonstrated our Lord’s divinity.  A few people had been resuscitated previously, but not after four days of being dead.  Jesus had told His disciples that Lazarus’ illness was not to end in death, but it was for the glory of the Son of God.  There were some who questioned and entertained doubts about our Lord’s divinity.  We are told at the end of the reading that many of the Jews began to believe in Jesus when they witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Seeing these two different ways of bringing people to life after death, we come now to a third way this happens.  Every person who is baptized is given a participation in the life of Jesus through the infusion of sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity.  Remember that when we were baptized, we were baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord.  We were dead in our sin, but His death was undertaken to remove all sin.  The resurrection was revealed to give life to those who had been dead through their own sins.

This means that if we are in the state of grace, we are alive in a spiritual way that is far greater than our natural life.  We can look around and see all the people who are alive, but so many are, as it were, among the living dead.  They have natural life, but they lack supernatural life.  This is something of a mystery for us because the soul is the principle of life in the living being.  So, all these people we see walking around have a soul which gives life to their bodies.  Our bodies do not have life in themselves, but the body is raised above its natural state when it is united with the soul and receives life from the soul.

Our souls do not have supernatural life in themselves, but when God infuses sanctifying grace and the Trinity comes to dwell within the soul, the soul is raised above its natural state and this new life flows from the soul into the entire person.  While this foreshadows the resurrection, as does the raising of Lazarus, we cannot say that when a person who was in the state of mortal sin goes to confession, that there is a resurrection of the soul.  There is a kind of spiritual resuscitation that takes place as the soul goes from not having supernatural life to having that life again.

Whether we learn of something as extraordinary as a person like Lazarus who was brought back to life, or something that has become more commonplace like paramedics resuscitating a person whose heart had stopped, or something most everyone has experienced by being restored to divine life in the confessional, all these situations point forward to the day we will rise from the dead on the glorious day of the resurrection.  This will not be merely a matter of the soul entering back into the body and, thereby, giving life to the body once again.  Nor will it even be a matter of the soul, infused with sanctifying grace, giving supernatural life to the body. 

The resurrection will, indeed, be a matter of the body and the soul being reunited, but the soul (if it has gone to Heaven) will be in a glorified state.  Upon entrance into the body, the entire person will share in the glory of God.  When Jesus told His disciples that the death of Lazarus was really for the glory of the Son of God, this was done so people would believe in the Lord.  But our resurrection will be a participation in the glory of the Son of God.  Obviously, faith in Him would already be present, but this will be a fulfillment of our faith and also of the various ways God has worked in our lives to foreshadow this great event. 

Every person will rise from the dead; not everyone will go to Heaven.  Live your life on earth for the glory of the Son of God and your life in eternity will be lived in the glory of the Son of God!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit