Fifth Sunday of Lent (A) Ez 37:12-14 John 11:1-45
First, I would urge you to read the whole gospel passage for today, when you hear it in church they may omit sections of the passage as is allowed by the Church in order to shorten the length of the Gospel; so it all depends on the pastor. However, this section of St. John’s gospel is a wonderful lesson for reading and meditating.
Our Lenten tour of St. John’s Gospel is almost over. There is a definite progression of themes over the last few weeks. First we learned of our thirst for living water, the grace of God, then we were urged to overcome our spiritual blindness, to open our eyes to see the Lord as he truly is so that we may share in his eternal life. Death and resurrection are the themes for today. Ezekiel witnesses the coming to life the dead nation of Israel in preparation for their return to the promised land. St. Paul assures us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in us, will give life to our mortal bodies.
Upon hearing the story in today’s gospel, the question that will arise in most people's mind is: why did Jesus let his best friends suffer anguish for four days? He could have cured Lazarus of his illness the moment he heard of it. But he purposely delayed and allowed Lazarus to die and the sisters to suffer as they watched their beloved brother slowly deteriorate. This whole episode gives us a little glimpse into the unfathomable mind of God. Was Jesus testing their faith? How does he test our faith?
Jesus wanted to make this the most dramatic of miracles before his death. A final proof that he was who he claimed to be; one who has power over life and death. This resurrection had two direct meanings as to what was to come. If he has power over life and death then his death is entered into voluntarily. The Jews, the Romans have no real power over him, he offers his life to the Father for us. It shows also that he is the One sent by God, to bring new life — eternal life to everyone. This miracle was also meant to frighten his enemies into action. The Pharisees and the Sanhedrin were afraid that Jesus would steal their earthly power over the people. This frightening display of power, to call upon the almighty God and raise someone from the dead spurred his enemies on so that he might be condemned and crucified as he offers himself to their political power.
His closest friends meanwhile had to suffer in order to cooperate in his divine plan. Is there not a lesson here for all of us who question the Lord when we have to suffer? Is there not an answer here for many elderly people who question why the Lord will not take them to be with him? Sometimes we, who consider ourselves to be his best friends, have to suffer in order to be part of Christ's plan for the salvation of the world. To be part of Christ's plan for salvation possibly of someone, somewhere, somehow. Those who die late in life are people that have touched many souls over their long years. How many people can one of us possibly help over the years? How many will the Lord allow us to change? We probably will not ever know until we see him face to face; for God knows.
Yet, we suffer at the separation of our loved ones, no matter how old they may have been or how long we expected them to die. The final separation is still real and difficult for us. But our dear ones are not lost to us; it is only a temporary separation. Our faith tells us that we will be reunited with them soon. For Christ, by his death, has conquered death. He has won eternal life for all of us. His resurrection leads to our resurrection to an eternal life of happiness where families, friends and neighbors will rejoice together in the presence of God. Our years of sorrow and suffering then will look small and trifling when viewed from eternity. Then we will see the divine plan for the human race, in which we have all had a part.
However, we must merit this eternal happiness. St. Augustine said, "God created us without our consent, but he cannot save us without our cooperation." We must live our lives as Christ taught us so that we will be ready for that day when we go to be judged. Lazarus after being raised still had to die all over again. But like all those who experience some sort of death and return to consciousness, he looked forward to going again to be with the almighty Father.
© JOSEPH MEILINGER 2022