THE Gospel – Fifth SUnday Lent 29th March
John 11:1-45
 A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
I am the resurrection and the life.
There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and 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 end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:
‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles,
because there is no light to guide him.’
He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to 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 go too, and die with him.’
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:
‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.
Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak
for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
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Fr Gerry’s Homily

Scripture scholar Fr Brendan Byrne tells us that this gospel is THE great Gospel of grief. Wowee, in these strange & unsettled times how appropriate!

   Take a moment to put yourself into at least one of these people of today’s Gospel. (Note the writer hints at this by first referring to Lazarus  “as a certain man”.)

  Now let us get a sense of how we are grieving. Grief is a very personal response. Some take time to begin, some need to talk & go over the circumstances, others need to blame someone, others wonder when they will come through “the other side” & how they will be changed. Others just need to be alone (impossible for most in our present crisis)

 Notice how Jesus lets the 2 sisters do “it’ their way. Martha goes crook “if you’d been here, my brother would not have died”. Jesus gives Mary space to sit quietly with her loss. It is Martha’s idea that he has called for her. There is no request of this from Jesus in the text.

Mary gives Jesus a spray too, using the same words as Martha “If you’d been here my brother would not have died”.

Jesus asks “Where have you put him?” Mary says “Come & see”.  An important phrase in the 4th Gospel (you might like to go to John 1:38).  Then like last week there is division (compare opposition to Pope Francis as well as difference of opinion on Plenary council etc).
There is also a bit of anger (so common in grieving) “Could not he have kept this man form dying”. But before this perhaps the most heart wrenching words in the whole of the Scriptures “Jesus wept”. Let us feel Him weeping now for all the people out of work facing mortgage fears, medical people daily dealing with patients who have the virus as well as the sick & their worried family & friends. Folks, drink in Jesus heartache, passion -that love for his friend Lazarus & the pain of the 2 sisters.

 Let us also stop & drink in those famous words of Jesus “Unbind him, let him go free”. Might this be what Jesus is saying to us?

Reflective Questions
“Remember, the Bible is asking contemporary questions; it is not a book of answers”. Amy Jill Levine
  • How are you grieving in these unsettled times?
  • Be ‘life-giving’ to others this week. Acknowledge and affirm them in particular ways.
  • Listen to Jesus say “unbind him/her, let him/her go free”
Living the Word
  • Use a lighted candle and the open Scriptures as a focus for prayer. Give thanks for those people in your life who have been ‘life-giving’.
Weekly Hymn