5th Sunday of Lent (A)
The resurrection of Lazarus
1. Opening prayer
2. Reading: John 11, 1-45
b) A division of the text to assist a careful
c) The text:
1-16: There was a man named Lazarus of Bethany, the village
of Mary and her sister, Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary,
the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment
and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to
Jesus, 'Lord, the man you love is ill.' On receiving the message,
Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death, but it is for God's
glory so that through it the Son of God may be glorified.' Jesus loved
Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that he was ill
he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples,
'Let us go back to Judaea.' The disciples said, 'Rabbi, it is not
long since the Jews were trying to stone you; are you going back there
again?' Jesus replied: Are there not twelve hours in the day? No one
who walks in the daytime stumbles, having the light of this world
to see by; anyone who walks around at night stumbles, having no light
as a guide. He said that and then added, 'Our friend Lazarus is at
rest; I am going to wake him.' The disciples said to him, 'Lord, if
he is at rest he will be saved.' Jesus was speaking of the death of
Lazarus, but they thought that by 'rest' he meant 'sleep'; so Jesus
put it plainly, 'Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was
not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.' Then
Thomas -- known as the Twin -- said to the other disciples, 'Let us
also go to die with him.'
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
5. A key to the reading
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
* For instance, the synoptics mention twenty-eight different miracles. John only mentions seven and he calls them "signs". Of the seven, only three are found in the synoptics. The other four are exclusive to John: the marriage feast in Cana (Jn 2,1-11), the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Siloe (Jn 5,1-9), the healing of the man born blind (Jn 9,1-7) and the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11,1-44). In the way he presents these "signs", John does much more than simply telling the miracle. He expands the facts so that they manifest Jesus as the revelation of the Father. Johnís Gospel tries to throw light on Jesusí saying, "To have seen me is to have seen the Father" (Jn 14,9). When we hold up to the light the X-Ray of Jesus in Johnís Gospel, we see the face of the Father.
1st Sign: the marriage feast of Cana (Jn 2,1-12)
2nd Sign: the healing of the noblemanís son (Jn 4,46-54)
3rd Sign: the healing of the paralytic (Jn 5,1-18)
4th Sign: the multiplication of the bread (Jn 6,1-15)
5th Sign: Jesus walks on the water (Jn 6,16-21)
6th Sign: the healing of the blind man (Jn 9,1-40)
7th Sign: the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11,1-44)
The great sign is the HOUR of Jesusí glorification.
* The seven signs are seven prefigurations of the glorification of Jesus, which will take place at the Hour of his passion, death and resurrection. Each sign symbolises one aspect of the meaning of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. It is in "meditating day and night" through the Lectio Divina or Prayerful Reading that we shall discover this meaning, which will enrich our lives.
* The resurrection of Lazarus, the seventh sign, opens the way for the coming of the Hour, the glorification, which takes place through death (Jn 12,23; 17,1). One of the reasons why Jesus is condemned will be the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11,50; 12,10). Thus, the seventh sign will be in order to manifest the glory of God (Jn 11,4): "This sickness will end not in death but in Godís glory and through it the Son of God will be glorified". The disciples cannot understand this (Jn 11,6-8). But even though they do not understand, they are ready to go and die with Jesus (Jn 11,16). Their understanding is slight, but their faith is right.
* Between life and death: Lazarus is dead. Many Jews are at Martha and Maryís house to comfort them for the loss of their brother. Those who represent the Old Testament do not bring new life. They just console. Jesus is the one who brings new life! In Johnís Gospel, the Jews are also the enemies who wish to kill Jesus (Jn 10,31). So we have on one side the threat of death against Jesus, and on the other Jesus who comes to conquer death! It is in this context of conflict between life and death that the seventh sign of the resurrection of Lazarus, of victory over death, takes place.
* Two ways of believing in the resurrection: The central point is the contrast between the old way of believing in the resurrection at the end of times, and the new brought by Jesus, which until now conquers death. Martha, the Pharisees and the majority of the people believed in the resurrection (Acts 23,6-10, Mk 12,18). They believed, but did not reveal it, because their faith was only in the resurrection at the end of times and not in the present resurrection of the story, here and now. That resurrection did not renew life. A link was missing. The new life of the resurrection comes with Jesus.
* Profession of faith in Jesus and profession of faith in life: Jesus challenges Martha to take that step. It is not enough to believe in the resurrection at the end of times, we must believe that Resurrection is already here today in the person of Jesus and in those who believe in him. Death no longer holds power over these, because Jesus is the "resurrection and the life". And, Martha, even though she has not yet seen the concrete sign of the resurrection of Lazarus, professes her faith: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world".
* Human, very human, equal to us in all things: After her profession of faith, Martha calls Mary, her sister. Mary goes to meet Jesus, who was still where Martha had met him. She repeats Marthaís expression: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (Jn 11,21). Mary weeps, everyone weeps. Jesus is moved. When the poor weep, Jesus is moved and weeps. When they see Jesus weeping, the others say, "See how much he loved him!" This is the characteristic of the community of the Beloved Disciple: love between Jesus and the members of the community. Some do not believe and still doubt: "He opened the eyes of the blind, could he not have prevented this manís death?" For the third time, Jesus is moved (Jn 11,33.35.38). Thus, John stresses Jesusí humanity against those who, at the end of the first century, spiritualised the faith and denied the humanity of Jesus.
* For us, there only remains to remove the stone so that God may give life back to us: Jesus orders the stone to be removed. Martha reacts: "Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day!" Once more, Jesus challenges her recalling her faith in the resurrection, here and now, as a sign of Godís glory: "Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" They removed the stone. Before the open tomb and before the incredulity of those standing there, Jesus turns to the Father. First, he thanks the Father, "Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me". The Father of Jesus is the same God who always hears the cry of the poor (Es 2,24; 3,7). Jesus knows the Father and trusts him. But now he asks for a sign for the sake of those who stand there, so that they may believe that he, Jesus, was sent by the Father. Then, he shouts aloud, "Lazarus, here. Come out!" And Lazarus comes out. This is the victory of life over death, of faith over unbelief! A farmer in the interior of Brazil commented, "It is up to us to remove the stone! And so God resurrects the community. There are those who do not want to remove the stone, and so in their community there is no life!"
6. Psalm 16 (15)
Protect me, O God, in you is my refuge.
My birthright, my cup is Yahweh;
I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
So my heart rejoices, my soul delights,
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
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