Sunday, March 17, 2013
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:8-14
John 8:1-11
Or Cycle A Ezekiel 37:12-14
Romans 8:8-11 John 11:1-45
Reflections for this column come from Cycle A.

When Katie’s closest friend died in a faraway state, she was amazed at the response of her friends in Oregon. They drove her to the airport and when she returned they were there to meet her. They listened and consoled. Most of all they tried to take the place where her friend once stood. I was thinking about Katie when I read today’s readings.

Of course, Jesus had friends. Lazarus and his two sisters lived in Bethany, a little town near Jerusalem. Tradition tells us that Jesus often stayed at their house when he traveled to Jerusalem. We have heard the story about the time when the two sisters seemed to vie for his attention. Mary sat and listened to Jesus as he talked while Martha did the work. When Martha complained, Jesus sided with Mary. There is more than one lesson here. For our purposes, though, let’s look at the relationship that these women shared with Jesus.
Jesus was an influential but controversial Rabbi visiting their home. Only an intimate relationship would have allowed the sisters to squabble in his hearing or to complain to him about one another. As the Gospel says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” It should not surprise us, then, that Martha and Mary would call Jesus when their brother was dying. But we should be surprised that Jesus did not hurry to be there before Lazarus died. Jesus had other plans. He had already said that the illness would not end in death.

John wants us to know why Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and why Jesus’ ministry led to his death. Two verses are particularly poignant. “This illness is…for the glory of God.” (11:5) and “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe” (11:15). Clearly, this miracle is about more than Lazarus.

Jesus allowed Lazarus to die because he wanted to make clear why he had come. Even if Lazarus was to live now, he was one day going to die. Jesus was to save all of us from death and that action would be permanent.

Death did not come into the world because of God’s plan. Jesus knew as well as we do the pain that death causes — our anxieties, our fears, our loss. The results of humankind’s sin led Jesus to weep. When he called Lazarus from the tomb he was pointing to his coming resurrection. Intuitively, we look for immortality and we are given resurrection.

Today the elect stand in the midst of the parish community and announce that they hear and believe (Samaritan woman), see and believe (man born blind) and believe in the resurrection (Lazarus). We support them and reaffirm our own faith at this Eucharistic celebration.