Sunday Relection 29/2/2020- 5th Sunday of Lent

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ it is a cause of great sorrow to us that we cannot celebrate the sacraments with you at the moment. However, I know that Fr. Gerardo holds us all before the Lord everyday when he celebrates mass, in this way we are truly at one with each other and the God who never abandons his people.

However, there is one thing I can do for you and that is break open the word through offering a homily on this week’s Gospel reading, the rising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus. In this way I can also exercise my ministry to you, one aspect of which, is being a servant of the word. Before you read my reflection, however, I would ask you to read the Gospel passage for yourself, perhaps, slowly and reflectively remembering that sacred scripture is nothing less than a conversation between ourselves and God. He speaks but invites us to respond for that is the very essence of any conversation. So we might ask of ourselves, ‘What is the Lord saying to me this week?’

A Reflection on the Gospel According to John (11: 1-45)

When somebody who we love dies it feels like our own heart has been truly broken, leaving us feeling as if life no longer has any kind of meaning. It’s like life itself has come to an end for us too. At this point when we are consumed by sadness and sorrow no words can bring us any sense of consolation simply because we feel so broken inside.

However, when John describes the resurrection of Lazarus he also intends to awaken our own faith, so that the resurrection is not something that takes place at some time in the distant future, but is a living reality in the here and now! God gives life now to those we commend to him, for in Him all are truly alive, ‘For He is the God of the living not of the dead.’

The first thing to notice is that when Jesus arrives at the grave of his friend Lazarus his own heart is truly broken because he openly weeps. The grave is closed with a stone, that stone blocks our way too. The stone symbolises the barrier that exists between the world of the living and that of the dead. We do not know what lies beyond that stone, all we can do is wait; wait until the last day.

Martha reflects this understanding of our faith when she says to Jesus, ‘I know that my brother will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ However, and quite remarkably this is not enough for Jesus!

His response is stark and to the point, ‘Take away the stone.’ Jesus and all those present will now clearly see what has happened to Lazarus buried in that tomb. Once again Martha comes back at Jesus pleading with him to be realistic for her brother has been dead for four days! The Jews, at the time, believed that the spirit of a dead person remained with the body for three days after death before finally leaving. So by the fourth day Lazarus was well and truly dead, hence his body would be decomposing and there would be a smell.

Jesus comes back at Martha calmly and sincerely saying, ‘If you believe, you will see the glory of God.’ In other words if Martha has faith in Jesus, she will be able to see clearly for herself, that God, in fact, gives life to her brother.

Jesus now says quite simply and calmly but with authority and for the second time, ‘Take away the stone.’

Now Jesus raises his eyes to heaven and His Father inviting all people to do the same, so that through faith, in Him, the mystery of death may be truly penetrated. By now you see Jesus is no longer weeping the sorrow has passed. Instead he gives thanks to the Father who always hears his prayers. However, what he desires is that all those who are present see and believe that he has been sent by the Father to bring new hope to the world.

Now in a clear and powerful voice he simply cries out, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’

Jesus wants all those present to see, learn and understand that Lazarus is, in fact, alive.

What happens next is shocking to say the least but that is exactly what it is. For out of the dark, dusty, shadowy interior of the tomb staggers Lazarus with his hands and feet bound in linen strips and his face wrapped in a cloth. Or in other words he has about him the signs, symbols and bonds of death but he is in fact alive!

This is nothing less than the faith of all those who believe in Jesus. You see the simple and profound truth is that all those whom we love who die, all those whom we mourn, all those for whom are hearts have been broken and our lives torn apart are, in fact, ALIVE! God has not and will not ever abandon them. All we have to do is take the stone away and see with the eyes of faith – our dead LIVE!

‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’

I hope that this short homily gives you some hope in the difficult times we are living through. At the start of Matthew’s Gospel, at Christmas, we heard the words, ‘And you shall call him Immanuel and name which means, God-is-with-us.’ At the end of Matthew’s Gospel we hear those words again almost like a final reminder, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of time.’

Jesus teaches us to see everything through the eyes of faith. In these difficult times we need to stay close to him, trusting that he is the hand in the darkness that will never let us go.

I will, of course, hold you in my heart and in my prayers before God every day. Please do the same for Fr. Gerardo and myself too.

God bless

Deacon Sean