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Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 26, 2023
Nicholas Black Elk, daughter Lucy Black Elk and wife Anna Brings White, photographed ca 1910.

Today’s Invitation

Today, we invite you to explore dialogue between Lakota worldviews and Catholicism, through Heȟáka Sápa, or Black Elk; engage Catholic Social Teaching on care for the Earth, and consider the Earth as one of G*d’s children; and embody these teachings through power mapping ourselves, and considering the examples of urban farming and the wisdom of the sunrise.

Commentary by Nia Alvarez-Mapp

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading 1

Ezekiel 37:12-14

YHWH says this:
I am going to open your graves;
I mean to raise you from your graves, my people,
and lead you back to the land of Israel.
And you will know that I am YHWH,
when I open your graves
and raise you from your graves, my people.

And I will put my breath in you, and you will live.
And I will resettle you on your own soil,
and you will know that I, YHWH, have said and done this
— it is YHWH who speaks.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 130

Response: With You are kindness and plenteous redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to You, O God; / God, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive / to my voice in supplication.
R: With You are kindness and plenteous redemption.

If You, O God, mark iniquities, / who can stand?
But with You is forgiveness, / that You may be revered.
R: With You are kindness and plenteous redemption.

I trust in You, O God, / my soul waits for You, O God,
More than sentinels wait for the dawn. / Let Israel wait for God.
R: With You are kindness and plenteous redemption.

For with You are kindness / and plenteous redemption;
God will redeem Israel / from all its iniquities.
R: With You are kindness and plenteous redemption.

Reading 2

Romans 8:8-11

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.
Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Christ.
But if Christ is in you, then though the body is dead because of sin,
the Spirit lives because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
then the One who raised Christ from the dead
will also bring your mortal bodies to life
also through the Spirit dwelling in you.


John 11:1-45

There was a certain man named Lazarus, who was sick.
He and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were from the village of Bethany.
Mary was the one who had anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume
and dried his feet with her hair,
and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick.
The sisters sent this message to Jesus:
“Rabbi, the one you love is sick.”
When Jesus heard this, he said,
“This sickness will not end in death; it is happening for God’s glory,
so that God’s Only Begotten may be glorified because of it.”

Jesus loved these three very much.
Yet even after hearing that Lazarus was sick,
he remained where he was staying for two more days.
Finally he said to the disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
They protested, “Rabbi, it was only recently that they tried to stone you
— and you want to go back there again?”
Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight?
Those who walk by day do not stumble,
because they see the world bathed in light;
those who go walking by night will stumble because there is no light in them.”

After Jesus said this, he said to the disciples,
“Our beloved Lazarus has fallen asleep.
I am going to Judea to wake him.”
The disciples objected, “But Rabbi, if he is only asleep,
he will be fine.”
Jesus had been speaking about Lazarus’ death,
but they thought he was talking about actual sleep.
So he said very plainly, “Lazarus is dead!
For your sakes I am glad that I was not there,
that you might come to believe.
In any event, let us go to him.”
Then Thomas, the Twin, said to the rest,
“Let us go with Jesus, so that we can die with him.”

When Jesus arrived in Bethany,
he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
Since Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem,
many people had come out to console Martha and Mary about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him,
while Mary stayed at home with the mourners.
When she got to Jesus, Martha said,
“If you had been here, my brother would never have died!
Yet even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask.”
“Your brother will rise again!” Jesus assured her.
Martha replied, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her: “I am the Resurrection, and I am Life:
those who believe in me will live, even if they die;
and those who are alive and believe in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
“Yes!” Martha replied,
“I have come to believe that you are the Messiah,
God’s Only Begotten, the One who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, Martha went back and called her sister Mary.
“The Teacher is here, asking for you,” she whispered.
As soon as Mary heard this, she got up and went to him.
Jesus had not gotten to the village yet.
He was at the place where Martha had met him.
Those who were there consoling her saw her get up quickly and followed Mary,
thinking she was going to the tomb to mourn.
When Mary got to Jesus, she fell to his feet and said,
“If you had been here, Lazarus never would have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the other mourners as well,
he was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions.
“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked.
“Come and see,” they said. And Jesus wept.
The people in the crowd began to remark,
“See how much he loved him!”
Others said, “He made the blind person see;
why could he not have done something to prevent Lazarus’ death?”

Jesus was again deeply moved.
They approached the tomb, which was a cave with a stone in front of it.
“Take away the stone,” Jesus directed.
Martha said, “Rabbi, it has been four days now.
By this time there will be a stench.”
Jesus replied,
“Did I not assure you that if you believed
you would see the glory of God?”
So they took the stone away.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Abba, thank you for having heard me.
I know that you always hear me,
but I have said this for the sake of the crowd,
that they might believe that you sent me!”
Then Jesus called out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
And Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound hand and foot with linen strips,
his face wrapped in a cloth.
Jesus told the crowd,
“Untie him and let him go free.”
Many of those who had come to console Martha and Mary,
and saw what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



A Chance for Redemption

There is something to learn about the spirit of G*d by exploring the legacy and influence of Heȟáka Sápa, also known as Black Elk, a wičháša wakȟáŋa (holy man) and prominent figure for the Oglala Lakota people. Damian Costello, in his book, Black Elk Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism, cites the work of postcolonial scholar Eduaurd Glissant in reference to the blend of both Catholic and Lakotan practice: “we must return to the point from which we started.” Cosetello uses this to argue on how, like many cultures – but the Lakota in this case – found their nuances and space within the word of G*d. 

Much like in the Bible, where so often grave mistakes are made, G*d still has the patience to deal with the people, and forces them to learn, if not for themselves, for the future generations. At the same time, we cannot create our own narratives that forget the historical and ongoing reality of colonialism and the decimation of Indigenous peoples of America. The Word, and Costello, ask us to think about the impact that our physical bodies have made in the world, and seek redemption to begin again. What is not known, or what we are being willfully ignorant of, will eventually come back to haunt us. 

Let us look at a piece from the Responsorial Psalm: “If you, O LORD, mark iniquities/ LORD, who can stand?/ But with you is forgiveness/ that you may be revered/ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” Forgiveness does not omit you, or others, from wrongdoing: instead, it is the process of healing from an offense. Costello takes accounts from Lucy Looks Twice, Black Elks’ daughter, who recites a prayer her father always said for G*d to unite and give strength to the Laokta people. Black Elk himself was a survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre in present-day South Dakota, and often referred in his dream that G*d showed love to his people despite the things that had happened to them. Before, he had prayed for both personal power for his tribe, and his tribe alone, not realizing that the settlers were going after everyone. Through this revelation, the movement began to unite all Indigenous peoples, despite colonialism’s divisions. The priority was to keep their identities by any means necessary. This priority is mentioned by Native Leaders Franks Fool Crow and Emerson Spider, (Teton Sioux and Oglala Lakota, respectively). Both men saw Christianity as a way of reclaiming, and as a tool of resistance to the Americanization of their people, especially looking back on the readings where the prophet Ezekial relays the message that G*d will put Their spirit into the Hebrews, to help them and settle upon their land. 

Black Elk had a concept of universality, Hanblecheyapi, where he asked Wakan Tanka (G*d) for people of the world to not live in “the Darkness of Ignorance.” Colonialism, here in the U.S., did not come and go, but instead took a new form. Much interest of Indigenous American heritage and the story of Black Elk has been for the sake of spiritualism, and/or New Age tourism. There is a chance, however just like today’s reading says, for redemption. Despite the many times in which the Hebrews mess up and lose Israel, there is a chance for them to adhere to G*d’s words, and get it back. Despite the many attempts of colonial projects of the past and today, Indigenous people are still here, which includes the legacy of Black Elk in all of his forms. This, again, relates to Costello’s points, as he points out that the impact and influence of colonialism not only matters in the way we as individual people understand our reality, but how our visions and future decisions come to be. It asks much of us because we can be the change that our ancestors refused to be, like the Hebrews we can beg G*d for mercy on ourselves, and go into the path of forgiveness. 

Commentary by Nia Alvarez-Mapp

Nia Alvarez-Mapp is a writer and a recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary, with a Master’s degree in social ethics with a concentration on political theology. She focuses most of her time on common good policies, and is an advocate for creating social justice dialogue in any space she goes to, which includes – but is not limited to – civic engagement, voter suppression, food insecurity, and interfaith dialogue.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Indigenous Justice

The big question in regards to legacy is: how to seek redemption, and do better than your predecessors? Too often, when we think about legacy it becomes the struggle of maintaining it, and what G*d asks us to do. We also fail to see that the Earth as a whole is also one of G*d’s children. So often we take things for granted, whether it be the environment, our faith, or the teachings of G*d. Through our vices, we extracted the resources out of the Earth; however, what we forget is that the Earth will continue their legacy of G*d, even without us. 

As the teaching emphasizes, we must protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of G*d’s creation. In order for us to protect, we must care for them. In order to do so we must go back to the basics in an effort to preserve the Earth and the people who live in it. Most importantly, we must reconcile with the past mistakes our predecessors made, as an effort to gain power, not for just ourselves, but for all. By no means will it be easy or fast, as Pope Francis appeals in his encyclical, Laudato si (2015): “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” 

In an effort for a better future, we must confront the past. Whether we see it or not, the physicality of our impact becomes more apparent every day. Conversion acknowledges the gray area of our impact, getting rid of the thought of what one can gain for themselves. Just like legacy depends on the survival of people, every day is a reminder that we need the Earth for our own survival, not vice versa. The first step of our redemption and the Lord’s mercy is to acknowledge this factor. 


A Contemplative Exercise

Power map yourself – write your name in the middle, and draw a circle. Make webs of those who influence you, or those who you influence. See if any of the people are connected. Write out the relations and the groups they are categorized in. Don’t be afraid to include names you don’t remember, like, “the guy from the deli-supermarket who knows how to slice my cold cuts right.” From there, pick a random person in your map and do a deep thought of your interactions with them. Were they always positive? Negative? Is there anything you have done to add on to this relationship? Is this a relationship you see lasting, or will remember years later? Do you think your interactions with them will have a lasting impact? 

This exercise is a useful tool especially in organizing, not only because it shows first steps in getting to know the world and people around us, but shows how everything is relational. 

A Witness

Ray and Tarvatta

I would like to highlight two of my mentors who really helped me put things into perspective. I met them in really pivotal parts of my life, that I do not believe I would have survived without them. Although both their professions and backgrounds differ (one a social justice director from Chicago, the other is a social worker from Harlem) they drew me to the same conclusion of life: that life is mine, and every accomplishment and mistake I make I own, because every moment is a lesson for someone else to see and learn from. 

This ownership allowed me to figure out what my contribution to society is for the better. So, Ray and Tarvatta, thank you for seeing the person who I am, and will be, before I knew she existed.  

A Community

Urban Farming Communities

Just want to give love to all the urban farming communities, such as Urban Tree Connection in Philadelphia or La Finca del Sur in The Bronx, to name a few. I want to give love for all their efforts to make the world green, and for using their knowledge of Afro/Indigenous cultures and ecology to bring about life in communities that are either deeply food insecure or are not the best environmentally for physical health. While these urban farming communities are not the end all solution, it does bring a form of healing and a bit of peace that the world needs. These communities are created purely for the common good, and are operated by a collective who continually learn and use their skills to make their environment more decent than when they leave it.


“Miami Morning” by Anthony Marin

“Miami Morning” by Anthony Marin


Image description: Against blue waves and a beach, the sun rises, golden and orange, lighting up clouds above it. Above the golden line of the sun on the horizon, the sky is a deep blue. The waves below the sunrise are deep blue, and reflect the golden sun.

My Uncle sent me this picture from Miami, and it made me think about how days actually work. It made me realize how everything in the universe has a duty and job to do without knowing who it is going to affect. How often you think what you do has no impact on yourself and others. It made me think about my impact, and if I am actually doing anything. But then I see the sun every morning, and I realize it’s a new day to try and find out.