April 2, 2017: Fifth Sunday of Lent
The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. (John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45)
This startling story is a great place to use your imagination in prayer.
First there is the scene of Jesus and his disciples when they get the word that Lazarus is sick. Try to fill out a few more details in your mind about what the disciples said to each other about why Jesus did not go immediately and his words about walking in the dark. Can you imagine what Peter said to him about the dangers of going back to Jerusalem? Then Martha leaves her house in a hurry, leaving Mary and their company, and runs to meet Jesus. Imagine a conversation with Martha asking her what she’s hoping for from Jesus. (Take time with this conversation, it is prayer).
Listen to Martha’s profession of faith in Jesus, try to feel her feelings and Jesus’ strong emotion. Stay with those feelings. As Mary gets the word that Jesus is there, what is she feeling? What are her hopes? Watch with them as they see Jesus weep.
Walk with them to the tomb. Feel with Martha as she objects to opening up the tomb. Notice Jesus’ relationship with the Father.
Watch Lazarus come out. Would you have had the nerve to help unwrap him? Let Jesus command something that holds you back: a fear, a bad habit, a grudge, persistent selfishness or …. Here is your chance to meet your Savior face-to-face and tell him about your struggles and ask him, “Untie me and let me go free.”
Finish up the story. Did they all go back to Mary and Martha’s house for a big party? What did the disciples say to each other? What did the villagers say to each other? Imagine Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ conversation.
This would be a wonderful story to act out. If not, you can at least go back to it several times this week and try to reconstruct parts of the story in your imagination as you walk or exercise or have a few minutes of quiet.
This method of prayer is what St. Ignatius Loyola calls contemplation; being in a story about Jesus in this way helps us know him and love him, so eventually we follow the real Jesus.
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