04 Apr Fifth Sunday in Lent
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. He had been in the tomb for four days, and Jesus calls his name, orders him to come out and he does. Death itself submits to Christ the Lord.
The Church presents this reading to us at this point near the end of Lent, as we soon approach Holy Week. Earlier in Lent Christ told the woman at the well that he was the Messiah; Last Sunday we heard about the cure of the man born blind, something never done before; and now he tops everything by raising Lazarus from the dead,…all for God’s glory; and through these miracles the Son of God is glorified as well. Jesus knows that in order to fulfill the Father’s plan he will soon suffer humiliation, torture and death. As that moment draws near he performs miracle after miracle to bolster his disciples’ faith so that the coming events of his Passion will not snuff out their hope in him. They are to remember these moments of miraculous glory when he is suffering and dying on the cross so that they will not lose hope. We are presented with these displays of God’s glory each Lent so that our hope will be built as well…So that we will remember these moments of miraculous glory when darkness is visited upon us; when we are suffering and dying.
As important as Lazarus’ being raised from the dead is…it is not the most important part of this narrative. The most important part is Jesus’ proclamation that he is the resurrection and the life and the following question to Martha. These explain the meaning and importance of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26) This key question to Martha is also the critical question for each one of us, because, unless one believes in Jesus and his word, the transformed life he offers is rendered void.
For Jesus to be the resurrection means that physical death has no power over believers. The future of each believer is determined by their faith in Jesus, not by their death. For Jesus to be the life means that the now, the present of the believer, is also determined by Jesus’ power for life, experienced as his gift of eternal life.
This past week we celebrated the funeral of a parishioner Al Tamasauskas…Al lived his life as an architect and loved to read history and theology…He would often say to his wife and son: “I want life…but I want eternal life…I want to live forever.” Such faith makes a pastor’s heart just soar.
The miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead concretely illustrates the truths that Jesus declares: “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is these truths, not the miracle, that have the lasting significance for the life of faith.
What truths do these verses offer us as we prepare to begin Holy Week one week from now? First, they offer the truth of the identity of Jesus. When Jesus identifies himself with the images of the resurrection and the life he gives concrete expression to his unity with the Father, to show what it means that Jesus and God are one. Jesus’ self-revelation as the resurrection and the life points to his sharing fully in the power of God. The magnitude of this claim can’t be overstated. Because it announces that when one sees and hears Jesus one sees God’s will for the salvation of the world at work in the world.
Jesus defeats the power of death because in him the world meets the power of the love of God incarnate. Because God loves the world as we hear clearly proclaimed in the famous 16th v of chapter 3 of John’s gospel…“6‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life,”…Because God loves the World God gives Jesus to the world for its salvation, so that the world might come to know fully God’s love for it and live grounded in that love. Jesus’ own death is a measure of this love, because in it Jesus’ power as the resurrection and the life comes to fullest expression.
“I am the resurrection and the life” gives us, Jesus’ disciples, the opportunity to claim that truth for our own lives.
‘I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11: 25-26) are the most far-reaching promises anywhere in the Gospel of what relationship with Jesus offers those who embrace it…they offer a vision of life to the believer in which his days do not need to be reckoned by the inevitable power of death, but instead by the irrevocable promise of life with God.
These two verses invite us, believing disciples of Jesus Christ, to a vision of life in which one remains in the full presence of God during life and after death.
Faith is not assent to a series of faith statements, but assent to the truth of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the decisive change that relationship means for the lives of each one of us, those who believe.
Jesus proclamation of himself as the resurrection and the life should be very comforting to us…it announces that the world is now definitively under God’s care and power.
When we believe in Jesus, when we accept what he says about God and about life and stake everything on it, in truth we are resurrected for we are freed from the fear, the frustration, and sense of futility which is characteristic of those who do not believe. Life is raised from sins’ death and becomes so rich that it cannot die but must find in death only the transition to eternal life.
John’s whole gospel is written on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of God. The purpose of the restoration of Lazarus is so that Martha can see “God’s Glory revealed.”
St. John points out that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” And yet he let Lazarus die. He told the messengers: “This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.” Jesus loves them, and yet he lets then suffer. He lets them experience their helplessness, their weakness, the separation of death, and the loss of a loved one. Did he do it to punish them? Did he do it because he had no power to remedy evil? No, he let them suffer precisely because he loved them. He wanted to give them the great gift of knowing him more deeply and more intimately and he wanted them to experience his power and his love more profoundly. The suffering afforded him an opportunity to act in their lives in a new way, revealing himself to them more completely. This is God’s glory – that we know and love him and experience his love more completely.
We urgently need to contemplate this moment in our Lord’s life. Suffering death, pain, and sorrow touch us all. If we exercise our faith in Christ’s wisdom as shown in his relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters, we will be more ready to find and embrace him when suffering strikes closer to home.
As we begin to walk through Holy Week one week from now, as we walk through the suffering, pain and death of Jesus,…And as we walk through the suffering, pain and death in our own lives, we must always remember these foundational words of today’s gospel:
‘I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die…
Do we believe this?’