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April 2, 2017 – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

     “When you wish upon a star
      Makes no difference who you are.
     Anything your heart desires
     Will come to you.”

That is the first verse of the song written in 1940 by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s classic film “Pinocchio.”  Only after some online research did I learn that the AFI (American Film Institute) ranked it number 7 in its list of the “greatest songs in film history.”  Even more significant, the Library of Congress decided to preserve the song in its “National Recording Registry” in 2009!

Despite these kudos, and the long love affair with the song by the various entities in the expanded Disney Co., the lyrics I quoted are truly deceptive for realists because they simply are not true.  That is not to say that we don’t wish they were.

Certain realities are bound to intrude upon our dreams, no matter who you are.  We may wish away sickness, but there’s always a doctor’s office nearby and maybe a hospital beyond that.  We could be daydreaming in our car on a sunny Saturday when suddenly a funeral procession stops us as it passes through an intersection.

Death, in fact, is the real “final frontier.” For all you “Star Trek” fans who may think otherwise.  There is no stopping its advance on each of us.  Except.  Except for the historical fact that once upon a time there walked on our planet the man Jesus Christ, who was for billions of believers, still is, and always will be God in the flesh.  He once raised a man named Lazarus at the request of the man’s sisters, a full four days after the man’s death and burial.  And nothing ever after has been the same for dreamers and believers.

The question arises: What do you and I do on learning of this story? In a real way, our answer determines the balance of our lives.  Do we believe it or not?  Do we analyze it, criticize it, or synthesize it?  Do we accept it or reject it?

I believe that we come together for a Sunday Eucharist because we accept the story.  More importantly, we accept Jesus, who speaks to us through this particular gospel as He does throughout the Bible.  We give thanks (eucharist) for the fact that God the Father gave Jesus the power of life and death, not in response to a wish, but to His prayer.  We profess that faith in when we recite our Creed together at Mass.

On this Lenten Sunday, some twenty-one centuries after that day in Bethany, we believe in Jesus Christ, whose tomb was occupied for only a day or so before it became empty forever.  And that’s not wishful thinking.  Call it “a faith-based fact.”



First Reading:  Ezekiel 37:12-14
The prophet preaches the word of God to bring new life to a dead Israel. God will take the initiative and send His very Spirit to give this life.

Second Reading:  Romans 8:8-11
Paul names “pleasing God” as the goal of human life.  This is possible only if God’s Spirit is in us.  That Spirit makes our future resurrection possible.

Gospel: John 11:1-45, or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45
Jesus proves that the Father hears Him.  Moreover, He has given Jesus the power of life over death, which is displayed by the miracle of Lazarus’ raising.


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