Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A
Gospel Reading: John 11: 1-45
1 There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill.
2 It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair.
3 The sisters sent this message to Jesus, "Lord, the man you love is ill."
4 On receiving the message, Jesus said, "This sickness will end not in death but in God's glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified."
5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
6 yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days
7 before saying to the disciples, "Let us go to Judaea."
8 The disciples said, "Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?"
9 Jesus replied: "Are there not twelve hours in the day? A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling because he has the light of this world to see by;
10 but if he walks at night he stumbles, because there is no light to guide him."
11 He said that and then added, "Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him."
12 The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better."
13 The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by "rest" he meant "sleep", so
14 Jesus put it plainly, "Lazarus is dead;
15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him."
16 Then Thomas - known as the Twin - said to the other disciples, "Let us go too, and die with him."
17 On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already.
18 Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem ,
19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathize with them over their brother.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house.
21 Martha said to Jesus, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died,
22 but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you."
23 "Your brother" said Jesus to her "will rise again."
24 Martha said, "I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day."
25 Jesus said: "I am the resurrection. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27 "Yes, Lord," she said "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world."
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, "The Master is here and wants to see you."
29 Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him.
30 Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him.
31 When the Jews who were in the house sympathizing with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
32 Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33 At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart,
34 "Where have you put him?" They said, "Lord, come and see."
35 Jesus wept;
36 and the Jews said, "See how much he loved him!"
37 But there were some who remarked, "He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man's death?"
38 Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb; it was a cave with a stone to close the opening.
39 Jesus said: "Take the stone away." Martha said to him, "Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day."
40 Jesus replied, "Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?"
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
42 "Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me, but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me. "
43 When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, "Lazarus, here! Come out!"
44 The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, let him go free."
45 Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
As on last Sunday, we have a long passage in which several stories are interwoven.
Jesus brings Lazarus out of the tomb; this is experienced as a liberation from bondage - "Unbind him and let him go free." Identify with Lazarus from your experience. He symbolizes those who have been written off (by others but also by themselves) as dead - people? communities? a country or a civilization?
Verses 3 and 36; 15; 39; 41 and 42 : Faced with the bondage of the tomb, Jesus is armed with love (verses 3 and 36), trust in the Father (vs. 15, 39, 41 and 42), and deep compassion (vs. 33, 35, 38). Enter into the dramatic confrontation in which these forces are victorious over death.
Verses 25 - 26; 29 and 40 : Jesus leads Martha (and to a lesser extent Mary) to a new insight into the power of faith over death by his teaching (vs. 25 and 26) and by commanding her to take the stone away (vs. 29 and 40). Recognize this journey from your own discovery of the power of faith over the forces of death and whatever keeps us in bondage. Where is Jesus teaching us this by word and example?
Verses 9 and 10 : Jesus returns to Judaea , the place of death, in perfect freedom, because of his own faith which is an inner light that keeps him from stumbling.
The disciples decide to accompany Jesus in his journey to death, which turns out to be a place of new life and freedom. When did you or your community take such a risk and experience a similar surprise?
Since we are approaching Holy Week, interpret the story of the crucifixion of Jesus in the light of this story: there too, faith and love prove victorious over the forces of death and darkness.
Lord, we remember today the times when we were like Lazarus in the tomb,
rejected, discouraged, in despair, feeling that life was not worth living
overwhelmed by guilt so that we wanted to hide ourselves away from the world.
We thank you that you sent Jesus to us as we lay in the tomb
a friend, a parent, uncle or aunt,
some member of our church community
and this Jesus
reached out to us in the tomb,
and in a loud, confident voice, called us to come out..
Thank you, Lord.
"Christianity is not about opposing evil. It is a call to live in contrast to the prevailing mode of fragmentation and despair." Derrick Wilson, founder of the ecumenical Corrymeela Centre in Northern Ireland
Lord, there are many who are Lazarus in our country,
seeming alive but really in the tomb:
those who are letting themselves be killed by
alcohol or drugs,
those who are cynical, who have no energy or enthusiasm.
We ask you to send them Jesus
someone who will be a friend to them as Jesus was to Lazarus,
will not be afraid to remove the stone that is closing them in,
will ignore us when we protest that they are already four days in the grave and will smell,
will call them to come out, and set them free.
"How much better to carry relief to the poor rather than sending it." John Wesley
Lord, we thank you for Jesus' great distress, for the tears he shed, for the sighs that came straight from the heart.
We come to you today with our own grief, our anger in the face of death, hatred, cynicism and despair.
Teach us, like Jesus, to leave ourselves in your hands,
remembering that you always hear our prayers, if we only believe we will see your glory, and through our faith we can call Lazarus from the tomb, unbind him and set him free.
"All the doctrinal work of the Church is focused in only one direction, serving human beings in their every condition, in their every ailment, in every way. The Church has proclaimed herself the handmaid of humanity" Pope Paul VI
We pray for your Church, in our country and in the world, that we may be Jesus in the world,
walking without stumbling because we are
walking in your light;
not afraid to go to Judaea even when we know we could be put to death there;
that we may let ourselves be led to where Lazarus is lying in a tomb, so that we can share in the grief of the world and in its sighs.
Fill your Church with the love of Jesus for Lazarus, and with his trust in you, so that she may call him out of the tomb and set him free.