Abbot Richard’s Gospel Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Fifth Sunday of Lent – 2 April 2017

Gospel: John 11:1-45

Called and set free to live

The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead in this week’s Gospel is one of the most dramatic of all Jesus’ miracles. It confirms for us that nothing is impossible for God, not even raising someone from the dead.  There are two important messages for us in this story.

The first aspect that is worth reflecting on is the difference between the attitude of Martha and Mary to the death of Lazarus and the attitude of Jesus. When Jesus meets Martha, and later on when he meets Mary, they both say the same thing to him ‘If you had been here my brother would not have died’.  They feel that Jesus could have prevented the death of their brother, but now that he is dead it is too late, nothing can be done, at least not until the resurrection on the last day.  For them the death of Lazarus is final.  They consider death as the opposite of life.

Jesus on the other hand is not so concerned with physical life. He says he is the ‘resurrection and the life’.  What is important is life – ‘even though someone dies they will live’.  In chapter 10 of St John’s Gospel Jesus says ‘I have come so that they may have life’.  But life for Jesus does not end with dead, rather ‘whoever lives and believes’ will never die.

It is worth asking ourselves do we really live in Jesus and share his life? Because if we do then ‘dying’ to other things and even death itself will not be an end.

The other point to note is the actual raising of Lazarus. It starts with the stone being taken away from the tomb.  Then Jesus gives thanks to his Father and calls Lazarus out of the tomb.  Lazarus emerges with his hands and feet bound and a cloth around his face and Jesus says ‘Unbind him, let him go free’.

The resurrection or ‘restoring of life’ to Lazarus is symbolic of the life that Jesus offers to everyone – obstacles are removed and we are called, and the things that hinder us and bind our hands and feet are removed and we are set free.

Jesus calls all of us to share in his life. Living in Jesus means being set free from the things that prevent us from living life to the full.  We might not be physically dead, but maybe there are parts of our lives that have died and need to be set free by Jesus – he calls all of us just as he called Lazarus.  He calls us and sets us free and gives us his life.

Fr Richard Purcell ocso