April 10, 2011
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45
Today at Mass we hear the story of the Raising of Lazarus. On a surface level this is the story of Jesus raising to life a friend who had died. Jesus is notified about the illness and eventual death of a dear friend and after a short delay, decides to go to visit the family. His disciples are reluctant to go with Him because Bethany is close to Jerusalem and they were afraid that the Jews would kill Him. When they arrive, Martha and Mary are both in distress at the loss of their brother. Jesus is moved to tears and goes to the tomb of his friend and raises him from the dead.
As always in the Gospel of John, however, there is a far deeper meaning for us than the story of Jesus
intervening in the grief of this particular family. The story begins with the simple “a man was ill” (Jn 11.1). The name Lazarus means “God helps” and the city he lives in Bethany means “the house of the afflicted.” The story is really about Jesus bringing help to all the afflicted. Jesus does not only love this family, He loves all of us and desires for God to be glorified by our coming out of darkness into the light of new life.
The deeper meaning of the story can be found in one of the responses that Jesus gives to Martha, “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 (v. 25). We believe this! This is the center of our faith in Jesus Christ. We believe in life not in death, anyone who dies in faith will live with God forever in heaven. Jesus is telling Martha and us that if we live and believe we will never die. Jesus came into the world not just to give comfort to the afflicted, but also give new life. When we live in faith, yes, we will face pain and sorrow, but we will not be destroyed by our sorrows. We will not become zombies, the living dead, because we believe in life.
The first reading also speaks to this new life. The people of Israel were slaves for seventy years and the prophet Ezekiel is told to tell the people that God will put flesh again on their bones and, “That I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!” (Ez 37:12-13). God heard the prayer from their darkness and promised new light and life.
Jesus gives new life to all three of the siblings in today’s Gospel. Martha is angry at the Lord saying, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). Despite her anger she is willing to listen to Christ and after he asks her if she believe she
responds, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, and the one who is coming into the world" (v. 27). Mary is so overwhelmed by grief that she is at first unaware that the Lord is there visiting her. When she does come to her senses she runs to Jesus and falls at his feet. Lazarus is in a tomb with a rock covering the entrance, bound by his burial cloth. Jesus orders they remove the rock and unbind him.
Next week, Palm Sunday, begins the holiest week of our Liturgical year. There is still time for us to come out of our tombs and
receive the new life that our Lord desires to bestow upon us. As Jesus inspired Martha to not live in the darkness of her grief but to live full of joy of a faith filled life; we are invited to not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the darkness of this world. As Mary opens her eyes and behold the love of Jesus; we are encouraged to truly see the world with eyes of faith and to embrace the love of Christ. And as the stone was removed from Lazarus’ tomb and he was unbound, so are we called to remove the stone that keep us imprisoned in our own tombs and loosen the ties of sin that bind us. This Tuesday, April 12 we will have our parish Penance
Service. Please use this opportunity of grace to live the new life of freedom Christ has for us.
ó Our Annual Parish Lenten Mission begins this Thursday. Fr. John Paul Forte, O.P. will be speaking on Forgiveness and Reconciliation Thursday, Friday, Saturday, April 14, 15 and 16 at 7:00 P.M. I invited Fr. John Paul because first of all I know he is an excellent speaker; second, he is a friend from High School and college. I know you will love his presentations. He will also give a short talk following the morning mass on April 15 and Saturday April 16.
ó There is a special collection today for Catholic Relief Services. This Charity provides direct relief to the poorest in the world and to those affected by natural and human made disasters.
ó I just recently joined sanpedronewspilot.com a very cool website all about San Pedro. In it, I am posting my weekly Sunday Pastor’s message as my blog. Everyone is welcome to go check out this brand new site.
Rev John F. Provenza