5th SUNDAY OF LENT
Well here we are at the 5th Sunday of lent as we look towards Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Just a couple of weeks left. And, as the drama intensifies in the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, so too, our personal struggle to overcome the weak spots in our spiritual armor should also “heat up.” There’s so little time remaining before our well-deserved Easter joy! As usual time has just flown in it seems to me that it has been no time since we celebrated the feast of Christmas and that was three months ago!! Time waits for no one is certainly a saying that is so true. I hope that Lent hasn’t served to mire us in guilt and shortcomings. Instead the Sundays of Lent give us the opportunity to look at where we have been, where we are and where we need to go as we listen to the Word of God. If we were listening we would have heard what we hear again today through the prophet Ezekiel. God intends to “open your graves and have you rise from them.” And again, as John puts it: Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” And we see this especially in the Gospel which is a pointer to the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. It seems a bit strange to have this gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Lent . It seems to be clearly about the resurrection and yet we are still plodding through Lent and have to get through Good Friday before we get to Easter and the joy that is there waiting for us.
Beneath the layers of theology in today’s Gospel reading, John tells us that Jesus had some very good friends. Some people followed Jesus for what he could do for them. But Martha, Mary and Lazarus seem the type of people that “sit around the table with a glass of good wine and share the day and daily ins and outs of life” kind of friends. The kind of friends whose faces “light up” with arms open wide when you meet them. The kind of friends who will witness your execution and stay with you when others run away. They are the friends you are one in spirit and mind with.
This sort of friendship brings life and joy, to individuals and to communities. It seems to be another good image of Church – Jesus surrounded by people who love him and each other, working together to bring life to others. Martha and Mary both say the same thing when they meet Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” When Jesus tells Martha, “Your brother will rise,” she professes faith that he will rise, “in the resurrection on the last day,” Then she professes her faith in Christ as “the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” But neither Martha nor Mary express faith that Jesus will resuscitate their dead brother. In fact, when Jesus orders the stone removed Martha says, “Lord, by now there will be a stench, he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus doesn’t work some miracle to remove the stone from Lazarus’ tomb? He asks others to do it for him. When that barrier is removed, Jesus calls Lazarus forth to life. The gripping drama of the rising of Lazarus points towards Jesus as the Lord of Life and prepares us for the celebration of our coming out of the tomb and sharing in His Life at Easter.
But this Gospel is about more than this friendship. It is also a call and a command for all of us to stop and consider if we are in a tomb, and if so, it asks us to hear the voice of the Lord calling us to shore up our courage and to come out of the tomb. The Gospel calls us to walk to the Lord and then to walk with the Lord as he shows us the way.As we go forward on our journey to Calvary, we should not fear the power of evil that so clearly fuels the plotting of the Pharisees. All evil in this world will have a short life. We need fear only our own weakness and vulnerability, our own false selves. From the deadness of our sinfulness and fears, we need to open our ears and our hearts to hear Jesus calling us to come into a new life.
How loving and compassionate is our God in the person of Jesus! He wept over Lazarus, wept over Jerusalem, he weeps over those killed through terrorism and war, through famine and disease, through murders and rapes- and-weeps when we fail to forgive one another.In these days of continued wars, terrorism, and ethnic hatreds, may we reflect on the truth that Jesus had to give his own life that we might have life and have it to the full.
Lent may be winding down, but there is still time for us to receive the sacrament of penance. There is still time left for our Lenten Spiritual Spring cleaning. There is still time for us to be at peace with ourselves and with our Lord. May we appreciate more each day that we are privileged to share with Jesus as Christians in his continual work of bringing the world from darkness to light, from hatred to forgiveness, and from death to life.We ask God today for the courage to walk away from that which is killing us and to walk towards the Light. We ask the Lord for the courage to walk towards the voice that is saying, Lazarus, Come out which in turn is asking us to come away from all that entombs us to the everlasting love and mercy of God.