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From Fr Jeremy….. Passion Sunday 29 March 2020

Passion Sunday – Sunday 29 March 2020

The Fifth Sunday of Lent is also known as Passion Sunday as it is the day on which we remember the sorrow of our Lord’s Passion.  Holy Week and the suffering of Jesus will soon be upon us and so the mood of the Season intensifies as the scripture readings for the day anticipate the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Readings for Passion Sunday 

Ezekiel 37.1-14

The familiar but haunting passage about the Valley of the Dry Bones, written soon after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, expresses hope for the dawning of a new age.  The prophet Ezekiel urges his devastated nation to look beyond catastrophe to a future of restoration promised by God.

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”  I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Romans 8.6-11

For Paul, life focused on this world alone is the way to a death that means separation from God.  A spirit-filled life on the other hand is full of energy and intimacy with God, now and forever

 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot,  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

John 11.1-45

The story of the raising of Lazarus demonstrates Jesus’ divine power over death itself.  Jesus is a wonderfully sensitive human being who has a great love for his friends.  The passage is also John’s reflection on the significance of the resurrection.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”  Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,  and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.



The story of the Valley of Dry Bones, made famous in the Negro spiritual, expresses hope for the restoration of Israel initiated by God.  The prophet Ezekiel urges the devastated nation to look beyond the catastrophe of the destruction of the Temple to a future in which God promises redemption and restoration.  Ezekiel prophesied, as commanded by God and the bones came together — the foot bone connected to the anklebone, the anklebone connected to the leg bone and so on.  This was the resurrection that God had promised and that God had initiated and it included not just the resuscitation of the dead but the restoration of the whole community.  God promises that the people will be raised from the dead, given a new life and will return to their homeland.  The agent of this resurrection is the Spirit of Yahweh; this breath, wind and spirit that we encounter in the creation stories of Genesis.

In the epic Gospel account from St John we read the story of the raising of Lazarus, which anticipates the resurrection of Jesus.  John’s purpose throughout his Gospel had been to show that in all that Jesus did God was fully present, actively revealing the redemptive power of God’s love.  While the miracle of the raising of Lazarus shows the divine power of Jesus over death itself, it also shows him as a wonderfully sensitive human being.  His love for Lazarus and his sisters is palpable; Jesus wept for Lazarus and, standing before his tomb, he is said to shudder and be moved with the deepest emotion.  The impressive raising of Lazarus, whose body was already decaying in the tomb, is seen as foreshadowing Jesus’ own resurrection.  There are many similarities: the tomb sealed with stone; the bodies wrapped with strips of cloth; the bodies anointed with oils and spice.  But Lazarus emerges from his tomb still bound, to show that he has risen but will eventually die again, whereas the resurrection of Christ occurred in the fullest sense.