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Fifth Sunday of Lent,
April 6, 2014
Lectionary index # 34

Twenty-second introductions to the readings, for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

The presider may speak these before the first and second readings, and before rising for the gospel acclamation. Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.


Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 6, 2014
Before the first reading:

When Israel was exiled in Babylon, Ezekiel had to to tell them that things were going to get even worse, that they'd become like a desert valley filled with dried bones. But after that, the Lord would revive them and breathe the Spirit into them again. This is the hopeful conclusion of that dire prophecy.
Between psalm and second reading:

Saint Paul teaches that to be "in the flesh" is to try to earn God's grace by our own merits, while being "in the spirit" means letting God give us that undeserved grace.
Before the gospel acclamation:

In Saint John's gospel, the raising of Lazarus starts the chain of events leading to Jesus' death and resurrection. John uses the story to remind early converts of the life-and-death consequences of choosing to follow Jesus.

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Ezekiel 37:12-14 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical Setting: Lent is almost over, as is our Sunday-by-Sunday tour of the Saint John's gospel. There the tension mounts between Jesus and his enemies. Were we doing this for the first time in our lives, we would be asking, "Must Jesus die? Will he be raised?" Today's gospel, John 11:1-45, marks a dramatic raising of the stakes. The lector should read it first because it governs the choice of first and second reading.

The Historical Situation: In 597 BCE, an enemy army uprooted many of God's people and dragged them into slavery in Babylon, some 750 miles from their homeland. Thus began the period known as the Babylonian Captivity, or simply the Exile. The exiles' experience was painful, but Ezekiel's compatriots had been saying, "It's going to get better soon. We'll get to go home. This will all be over shortly." Ezekiel had to warn them that things were going to get much worse before they got better, that, due to their unfaithfulness, they had a fuller measure of suffering to endure. This came to pass when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, the object of the exiles' longing, in 587. Their hopes died. Ezekiel utters his now famous vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37: 1-14) in this desolate context. Today's first reading is the conclusion of that passage.

Proclaiming It: Given the depths of the people's despair, the Lord's promise of restoration and life is all the more bold. That's what the lector has to get across rhetorically. Make the last sentence stand out by pausing before it, then punch it out with utter confidence:

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.

Second reading, Romans 8:8-11 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Theological Background: Commentators have filled shelves with books about the meaning of "in the flesh" versus "in the spirit." In my opinion, the simplest and best explanation, and one consistent with the rest of Saint Paul's teaching, is that we're in the flesh to the extent that we try to save ourselves, earning salvation by our own works, by how well we keep rules, etc. That's proud and futile. Rather we're called to be in the spirit, to let the Spirit dwell in us, sanctifying us not by our works but by the undeserved grace of God, the only power capable of bringing life from death.

Proclaiming It: Reading this to a congregation is challenging, especially where the sentences are long. Try to break up the long sentences into sense lines, pausing briefly where that will help the listeners follow. Vary your tone of voice to bring out the contrasts between life and death, spirit and flesh, righteousness and sin.


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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Archived weekly column of Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137)

Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group

Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Essays by six highly-qualified writers from Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy-preparation site.

If the link above fails, Click here for an archived version.
The page is dated 2012 as of February 1, 2014, but it covers the RCIA readings for this year.

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.

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Last modified: February 1, 2014