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The Fifth Sunday of Lent

April 6, 2019

Verse before the Gospel

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; 
  Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die.

 

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 11: 1-45

                                                Raising of Lazarus

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 Messiah, 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 fell at his feet and said to him, “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 seen what he had done began to believe in him.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

REFLECTION by Monsignor Joseph T. Marino

One week from now we will celebrate the beginning of the sacred week we call Holy, and we will do it with the proclamation: Hosanna to the son of David!  Today, in anticipation of and preparation for the feast of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel proclaims the restoration of Lazarus to earthly life.  This is the last of the seven Signs (miraculous deeds) recorded in the Gospel according to John.  It is the most dramatic act and a clear declaration that Jesus, the son of David, the Son of God has the power to defeat Satan and destroy death forever by His own death and resurrection!

As with the blindness of the young man last week, there is purpose in Lazarus’ death that goes beyond the surface of physical perceptions.   The restoration of Lazarus is to provide tangible evidence that Jesus possesses the ultimate power of God, Creator of LifeThis illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

This portion of the Gospel clearly demonstrates the inherent mortality of all humanity.  Every person is a victim of the sickness of sin which always leads to death.  This sickness and death is the condition of the heart and soul of humanity without the Salvation given to us by Christ. 

How can anyone not see in this episode the goodness and love of God for soul-sick humanity, and yet, the restoration of Lazarus is used as one of the accusations which will bring about the death of Jesus.  Like the blind Pharisees of last week’s Gospel, humanity can become so distorted without Christ that it can blindly claim that the Resurrection is NOT a gift to rejoice in, but something to rebuke God with.  The depth of evil and sinfulness in the human condition is the backdrop for the necessity of God’s intervention.  For only God and his divine mercy manifested in the person of his beloved Son can save humanity and restore it to the fullness of life and love!   

Jesus knows who and what he is confronting when calling Lazarus back from the clutches of death.  Biblical scholars interpret Jesus’ becoming  perturbed and deeply troubled as his revulsion and anger toward evil which has as its greatest display death itself!  The Book of Wisdom, along with all Scripture testifies that God did not create death; death is the result of sin and the work of the evil one.   Death is the result of humanity attempting to isolate itself from God who alone can give life eternal!

Facing the death of loved ones and considering our own mortality is the greatest challenge and most disturbing event of life.   Martha and Mary knew Jesus could have prevented their brother’s death, but preventing earthly death is not enough for me and you.  And definitely, it s not enough for God and His Son, Jesus Christ!  We desire, and we want to live forever!  We desire, and we want to have the fullness of life that will never end!  Only Jesus Christ is our Life and Resurrection!  

 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?” — YES, LORD, WE BELIEVE!

Prosit!

Monsignor Joseph Marino

 

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