5th Sunday in Lent A - 26 March 2023
This is a very poignant reading for those who are experiencing the recent death of a loved one. Three years ago when this Gospel was last read in Lent, life was very different and for those who lost loved ones it was almost impossible as they were not allowed to mourn in the way they would have wanted. What has not changed since then is the loss people experience with the death of someone they love, especially if it is sudden or unexpected. All we can do is love them, perhaps in practical ways, and support them through our prayers.
There will be very few of us who have not experienced the loss of someone close to us. Such a loss can have a devastating effect on our lives, especially where families cannot always be with their loved ones when they die. Grief can overwhelm us and leave us with many different feelings. This week’s Gospel is an account of what happens to Martha and Mary when their brother, Lazarus dies.
Jesus has been informed that His friend Lazarus is very ill but He delays rushing to his side. In fact, he stayed where He was for two more days before starting on His journey to Bethany. When He arrives He is too late – Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Jesus knew how long it would take to travel to Bethany. He was determined to arrive, not only after Lazarus’ death, but when, according to popular Jewish belief, resurrection was no longer possible – on the fourth day.
By raising Lazarus from the dead after it was possible for resurrection to take place, Jesus was able to show the ‘glory of God’. Before He did that, He had to face Martha and Mary. Martha addresses Jesus and says ‘If You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ We can almost hear her anger, frustration, sadness and disappointment. Mary says the same thing to Jesus but it is Martha who professes her faith in Jesus as the ‘Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.’
Jesus calls on His Father in prayer and then calls forth Lazarus from his tomb. He sets Lazarus free from death and his friends unbind Lazarus from the ‘bands of stuff and a cloth round his face.’ Just as Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb, so He calls each one of us out of our own ‘tombs’ – whatever they might be. What is it that keeps us from being close to Jesus? Just as the friends of Lazarus help him to become free from his bonds, so too, we can help others become free so they can come closer to Jesus. They, in turn, can help us or others be free. This week let us give some time, thought and prayer to what it is that keeps us bound.
Let us also remember those who are grieving the death of a loved one. May their loved ones rest in peace.
Sr. Margaret Mattison