Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for March 29, 2020
Ezek. 37:1–14 • Ps. 130 • Rom. 8:6–11 • John 11:1–45
The collect, from an 8th-century copy of a book ascribed to Pope St. Gregory the Great, summarizes moral theology of which Gregory was a proponent: If God moves our wills to desire his promises and guides our affections to love his commandments, then we shall meet true joys.
As Holy Week approaches, readings begin to anticipate the death and resurrection of Christ. So, dying and rising is the principal theme today.
During the exile, Ezekiel pictures the people of Israel as bones scattered on a field, and then promises that God will raise them from the national death which they had suffered in defeat and displacement. For its topic of rising from death, this passage is also read on Easter Eve, and for its topic of the Spirit’s giving life, it is also read on Pentecost Eve. In Ezekiel’s time, the Hebrew phrase “son of man” seems to have meant “mortal,” which is the word the New Revised Standard Version uses for the name by which God calls Ezekiel. By 175 BCE, Daniel’s era, son of man had acquired supernatural associations, as a figure like a human being coming from God’s right hand. By Jesus’ time it carried overtones of messiahship. In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus asked the once-blind man if he believed in the Son of Man, and then identified himself as that heavenly Person.
Psalm 130, De profundis, is a lament of an individual Israelite (v 5) and also of the nation (v 7). “[T]he depths” could mean deep trouble, or deep under water, or in a deep pit, or in the Pit of the dead, or all four. In Christian liturgies the De profundis serves as both a penitential psalm and also a funeral psalm. One could imagine Lazarus in today’s Gospel praying, “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice....”
Observing that the human will is unmanageable except by God, Paul discusses our dying in the old life of sin and rising in the new life of the Spirit. Everyone is a spiritual Lazarus.
On the last two Sundays, Jesus was giver of water and giver of sight. Today he is shown as giver of life, raising Lazarus from his tomb, one instance of Ezekiel’s vision for the nation, and a foretaste of the eternal life described by Paul. Lazarus’ resuscitation foreshadows Jesus’ own resurrection (but not precisely, for Lazarus will die again), and it demonstrates Jesus’ power over death. The resuscitation of Lazarus is also the act which motivates the high priests, “from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death” [Meaning Jesus, but they also discuss killing Lazarus]. After this miracle follows the anointing at Bethany, and after that, Palm Sunday.
—Rev. Stephen Weissmann | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
March 29, 2020 — Fifth Sunday in Lent