March 26, 2023: Fifth Sunday of Lent
Gospel: John 11:1-45
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him 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.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 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 to him, “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.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, 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 see what he had done began to believe in him.
Growing in faith; “many of the Jews … began to believe in him.” Unlike in last week’s gospel relating the hardness of heart on the part of those who witnessed the blind man receiving sight, those who are present for the raising of Lazarus believe what they see and in the One who raised him from death. They open their hearts to the gift of faith. So it is for those who have been journeying into the church. They (the Elect) have come to believe in Jesus and are ready to make their commitment as faith-filled Catholic Christians.
Jesus’ dear friends, Martha and Mary, already believe in him. A relationship does that for us, usually. As friends of Jesus, we believe and trust in Him. And so, we come full circle to the importance of prayer (communing with God) in order to grow our relationship with the Divine.
The three pillars of Lent (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) which we have embraced during this Lenten season have provided us a path to greater commitment as disciples of Jesus. Unlike kids giving up candy for a few weeks, may our practices continue to be a part of our ongoing life and not end with the conclusion of the Forty Days.
As the Elect approach the reception of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Communion, let us continue praying for them and for ourselves. United in prayer with those soon to be initiated into the church we will renew our baptismal promises at Easter. May the Elect be given the faith to acknowledge Christ as the Resurrection and the Life. Freed from sin and growing in the holiness that leads to eternal life, may they be filled with the hope of the Spirit as they prepare themselves for their birth to new life in the waters of Baptism.
At Easter, may we also be renewed in our hope of rising to new life with Christ.
May the whole world, which God has created in love, flower in faith and good works and so receive new life. Amen!
Thanks Mary Beth for this insightful reflection and reminder to pray for those coming into the Church at Easter too.