Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Isaiah 49:8-15; John 5:17-30)

Cremation is an increasingly popular way of disposing the remains of the dead. Soon the percentage of cremations in the United States will surpass that of burials. For a long time the Church forbade the practice because it was used by some to defy belief in the resurrection of the body. However, in 1963 the Church recognized that people have legitimate reasons to cremate the bodies of loved ones. Now it regularly has funerals with cremains and gives them all the respect of a cadaver. Today’s gospel grounds the hope of resurrection in Jesus’ own words.

Jesus presents himself as God the Father’s Son with full authority. As Queen Elizabeth might send Prince Charles to Parliament as her proxy, Jesus claims that his Father in heaven has sent him to earth. He then reveals his intention to raise those who accept his authority to new life once they die. He is not speaking figuratively as if he were seeing those living in sin as dead. Nor, interestingly, is he saying that the dead have to wait until the end of time to be so exalted. “The hour is coming,” he assures, “and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of God, and those who hear will live.”

We should keep in mind that the resurrection of the dead is the great hope of Easter. We may strain to align this speech of Jesus with others that promise resurrection on the last day (6:40, 44), but the promise is clear. Belief in Jesus leads the believer to resurrection from the dead.