The Scent of Resurrection

7 April 2019 – Fifth Sunday in Lent

Each year the readings for the last Sunday in Lent confront us with the claim that God’s new thing, the new life we have together in Christ, our hope in Christ for the resurrection of the dead, for God’s future, is grounded in the suffering and death of Jesus. . . Any pain we may suffer in keeping or breaking our Lenten discipline is as rubbish next to this: that the suffering and death of Jesus are essential to God’s plan of salvation. Mary “got it.” Judas never did “get it.” And it is in our own straining forward to “get it” for ourselves that we “press on” to Holy Week and the Great Three Days. –– Paul G. Bieber

John 12:1-8

The scene marks a key transition and link from Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry (the gospel of signs) to his paschal ministry (the gospel of glory). The author drops many clues and prepares the reader for any number of elements of the story to come: the death of Jesus at Passover, the anointing oils of burial, the resurrection story of Lazarus, now extended into the “prequel” to the resurrection story of Jesus, and the betrayal of Judas, who is here also revealed to be a thief.

The reading concludes … “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” The saying is unfortunately used to . . . excuse indifference toward . . . care for the poor. An effective homily will challenge these hidden assumptions. . . The anointing here is similar in its lavishness to the anointing of kings in Israel and it anticipates the anointing (which will be abandoned as unnecessary) the women were prepared to make as they journeyed to visit the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. The poor we will always have; they are not helped by theft from the common purse. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Isaiah 43:16-21

If you thought the Exodus was terrific, as in when God made “a way in the sea, a path in the waters, and extinguished chariot, horse, army and warrior,” you will love the sequel. The forty years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness is no different than the forty years of exile in Babylon. It could be argued that the stories of Moses and the Israelites were solidified in the time of Exile precisely . . . to make sense of the captivity in Babylon and the difficulties faced by the returning Israelites. . . Exodus, Part II is the “new thing” that God will bring about in Israel. God will “make a way in the wilderness” for the returning exiles. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Philippians 3:4b–14

Some Philippian Christians were apparently being pressed to accept circumcision, if for no other reason than to avoid persecution under Roman law. . . Paul’s argument, in a word: do not put your trust in a sign of the flesh or even in righteousness under the law. Rather, share in the sufferings of Christ and become like him in his death, prepared to lose all things, so as to gain all things in the power of his resurrection. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Paul Bieber is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, San Diego, California.

Jeffrey VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.

Homily Service 40, no. 4 (2007): 33-44

David Turnbloom