You Have to Die so that You Can Live 2021-3-21 Fr. Roberto
Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent – Year A
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Los Angeles, CA
March 21, 2021
Preaching series #5 of 5: Unbound – Freedom in Christ
Title: You Have to Die so that You Can Live
Theme: We must experience the death of renunciation before we can enter into the fullness of life God wants us to have.
Readings: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
I hope you have noticed our liturgical environment up here in front of the altar during this Lenten season. As you can see, it projects an image of barrenness, starkness and even of death. That is because in some ways, this is what Lent is all about. Lent is meant to be a season where we choose to become barren, so to speak, by stripping away from ourselves some of our favorite foods and activities so that we can come to rely more on God to satisfy us than the things we have given up. Lent challenges us to make our lives simpler and starker so that we can hunger for God more deeply in our lives. During Lent, we are called let go of the things that can distract us from our true identity as God’s beloved children and that distract us from our ultimate purpose in life of loving and serving God and others. In Lent, we choose to die to ourselves so that we can live more and more for God. In other words, Lent reminds us that we have to die so that we can live.
This is one of the foundational beliefs we have as Christians, not just during Lent, but throughout our Christian life. We believe that, by God’s grace, death leads to life. This foundational belief is graphically portrayed in our first reading and Gospel today, but, for the sake of time, I want to focus on the Gospel. In today’s Gospel Jesus shows his power and authority over death itself by raising Lazarus from the dead. Like last week’s healing of the blind man, this amazing miracle is not just a historic event of Jesus restoring a person to life 2,000 years ago; it is also meant for us today to show how Jesus calls us to new life when we have been in a tomb ourselves. This can happen, for example, when we are crushed by crisis, tragedy or loss in our lives, or when we have buried ourselves through sin, selfishness and giving in to the lies and temptations of the devil that draw us away from God. At these times, Jesus calls us by name, as he called Lazarus in today’s Gospel, to find in him new life, strength and determination to overcome life’s setbacks. And he also calls us by name to renounce any evil influences in our lives, to leave the darkness and come into his light, to be unbound, and to find freedom in him.
But what I am saying today is that, in order to receive that new life and freedom in Jesus, we have to die first. And the key to dying to ourselves is the renunciation of all the things in our lives and in our world that are not of God. Renunciation is the Third Key of the Unbound Ministry model. Now, when you renounce something, it means that you want to have nothing more to do with this influence in your life. Therefore, in the Unbound model, renunciation means you want to have nothing more to do with the lies and empty promises of Satan that have drawn you away from God. Going through this Third Key of Renunciation is not easy for us; in fact, it is impossible for us to do this renunciation on our own. That is why, in Unbound, the Third Key of Renunciation is linked with the Fourth Key of Authority, the authority that comes to us from Jesus himself. As the Son of God and Lord of the universe, Jesus has been given all authority and power in heaven and earth. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples the authority and power to go forth in his name. That same authority and power has been given to us as baptized believers – but we have to believe in them and use them!
While the Third Key of Renunciation requires honesty and humility to recognize and name the ways we have allowed ourselves to be drawn away from God, the Fourth Key of Authority requires faith to believe that we have been given Jesus’ authority and power over any evil influence in our lives. And, it also requires the courage to command this evil influence to leave in Jesus’ name, as well as the courage to follow through with the words we have spoken in our renunciation by changing our lives accordingly. I have written in my bulletin message today how you can apply renunciation and authority in your own life, and I encourage you to look at it and give it a try.
So, as I finish this preaching series on Unbound – Freedom in Christ, I want to ummarize the Five Keys once again.
The first key is Repentance and Faith where we acknowledge and repent of our sins and surrender our lives to Jesus.
The Second Key is Forgiveness where we give to others the pardon and mercy we have received from the Lord.
The Third Key is the Renunciation of every evil influence in our lives.
The Fourth Key is Authority where we call upon and use the authority we have from Jesus to overcome evil and break its power over us.
These first four keys are the steps we must take to die to our false selves, to our egos, and to all that is not of God in our hearts and lives. Only when we have died to ourselves in this way will we be ready to experience The Fifth and final Key which, as I mentioned several weeks ago, is Receiving the Father’s blessing. This means receiving the new life of freedom, power, peace and joy that God wants us to have as his beloved children.
My brothers and sisters, like Lazarus, we have to come out of our tombs, and we have to be unbound if we want true freedom in Christ. We have to die so that we can live.
One last time, I would like to lead you through a prayer from Neal Lozano’s book.
It is actually a combination of two of his prayers that will lead us through the keys of renunciation and authority. This prayer is in three parts. First, I will lead you in a general renunciation of Satan and all his works and empty promises. Then I will lead you in a specific renunciation of something that you want to surrender to the Lord. You will say that specific renunciation silently in your mind, not out loud. Second, I will give the command of authority, by myself, telling the evil spirits to leave. Then I will pause for a few moments. Pay attention to anything the Lord may put in your heart or mind in those moments. Third, I will lead you to finish the prayer with thanksgiving.
So please think of some sin or thing you would like to renounce specifically when that moment of the prayer comes. (Pause). If you can and if you choose to, please stand.
If you would like to close your eyes and open up your hands palms up feel free to do so.
Now, please repeat after me: Lord Jesus, // I surrender my life to You. // I trust in You. //
In the name of Jesus // I renounce Satan // and all his works and empty promises.//
In the Name of Jesus // I specifically renounce ________________ (say it silently in your mind).
NOW, I WILL SAY THIS NEXT PART BY MYSELF:
In the name of Jesus, I command Satan and every evil spirit behind the sin that each of us has renounced today to leave in the Name of Jesus. I command you to leave in Jesus’ name! (Pause)
Now, please repeat after me again: Thank You, Jesus, // for giving me victory over my enemies // and for setting me free. // I am not afraid. // Amen.
On Easter Sunday, as a church, we renew our baptismal promises, beginning with some of these same words of renunciation of Satan. But you can also do this whenever you feel a need to; just renounce Satan and any particular area of struggle you have in the name of Jesus. This is the authority and power Jesus gives to each of us as a child of God, so that we can die to sin and live for God.
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