Fifth Sunday of Lent
1) Ez 37:12-14
2) Rom 8:8-11
Gospel: Jn 11:1-45
Recently I got into a conversation with a few fellow Catholics about confession. Someone remarked on how hard it is to maintain the sense of restored innocence very long after exiting the confessional.
“Heck,” one man said, “I just pray to the Lord that he’ll help me get to the car before I start sinning again.” This was followed by general “I know exactly what you mean” laughter.
There are guides for preparing for confession with lists of possible sins to examine yourself about and prayers for approaching the sacrament with sincerity. And, of course, prayers after confession are the staple penance assigned by confessors.
But we could use a post-confession prayer or two to buoy us up afterward, given the realistic concern that all too soon we’re going to give way to our typical weaknesses to sin in thought, word or deed in what we do or in what we don’t do.
Today’s second reading contains a possible kernel for such a prayer.
Not that the reading is easy to understand. Paul uses terms such as “flesh” and “spirit” — or is it “Spirit”? — and “body” and “dead” in subtle ways that have led to disagreements about his meaning.
But his final statement makes this clear point: “If Christ is in you … because of righteousness … the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you” (Rom 8:10-11).
The “righteousness” Paul speaks of is God setting us right with himself through Jesus — forgiving our sins, restoring us to friendship with him, changing us within. That’s what God does every time we go to confession. Along with this, his Spirit living in us is renewed.
Well, that means that the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, and will ultimately raise us from the dead too, is living in us. And that same power — think how great it is! — already living in us can enable us to remain in friendship with God in the midst of whatever temptations we have to deal with, not only as far as the church parking lot, but on into the rest of our life.
That’s worth thinking and praying about.
Lord, I believe your Holy Spirit lives in me. Let your Spirit be at work in me to keep me in your will.
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.