View all Gospel Reflections |
Light at Death’s Door
Fifth Sunday of Lent
John 11:1-45 (Scrutiny Year A Reading)
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 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.
Opening Prayer: Lord, as I read these words, I am grateful for the comfort you continually provide through your word. Enlighten me once again today, please.
Encounter with Christ:
- So Misunderstood: This passage of the Gospel comes near the end of Christ’s ministry. His disciples had observed numerous miracles, heard hours of his preaching, and spent many enviable intimate moments with Christ living an ordinary life. Still, they failed to grasp the plan that Christ had to glorify his Father. They knew Jesus loved Lazarus, but they were afraid to return to Judea with him. “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” They thought Lazarus slept and they needed to be told directly that Jesus spoke of Lazarus’s death. Full of misguided fervor, Thomas said, “Let us also go to die with him.” It seems that not one of them grasped the mind of Christ. As they returned with Christ to what some of them suspected was their inevitable death, their hearts must have been heavy with worry and sadness. When we feel bewildered or saddened by life, it can help to remember that Christ’s disciples were also often confused and afraid. That long trek to Bethany must have been very dark indeed. Their sorrow would turn to awe and wonder as Lazarus was raised, and so will ours one day, as long as we allow Christ to accompany us through the darkness.
- Master of Time: Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He had dined with them and spent many hours in close friendship with them. Yet, when he heard that Lazarus had died, he did not rush to be there. He waited two days. Why? “The Son of Man is to be glorified through this,” he said. The raising of Lazarus was one of the last great miracles Jesus accomplished before his Passion. He hoped that many more souls would see and believe in him once they observed or heard about Lazarus’s resurrection four days post-death. As he prayed, “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,” Jesus longed for the conversion of souls.
- Martha’s Faith: When Martha heard Jesus was near, she ran out to meet him. She didn’t ask what took so long. She simply greeted him with a truth: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” What she said next identified her as a woman of incredible faith, a true lover of Christ, and a wise soul: “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” To this, Christ answered with a beautiful and eternal truth, which has consoled countless generations of Christians: “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.” When we find ourselves in darkness, begging Christ to act, may the prayer of Martha be on our lips: “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Or as Sister Faustina urges us to pray, “Jesus I trust in you.”
Conversing with Christ: God my Father, so often I do not see how you are working in my life or in my family. Help to have true hope and trust in you. Help me to battle through the difficult emotions I may feel at times and know that you are at my side. Thank you for your providential care!
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will try to be a comfort by sending a note or sharing an uplifting word for a person struggling or mourning.
For Further Reflection: Brothers and sisters: Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5: 5).
Written by Maribeth Harper.