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April 2, - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Fifth Sunday of Lent

April 2, 2017

Ez 37: 12-14/ Ps 130: 1-2. 3-4. 5-6. 7-8/ Rom 8: 8-11/ Jn 11: 1-45

By *Fr. Ray Salomone, SJ

The lengthy Gospel reading for this fifth Sunday of Lent, forty-five verses from Chapter Eleven of John's gospel, captures one of the more beautiful and moving moments in all of the New Testament, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the brother of Martha and Mary. This story is especially touching because it is so revealing of the human side of Jesus. These three persons were very dear to Jesus. He was in the habit of just showing up at their place any time along with several of his companions for a meal, for a visit, or just to hang out, as we might say today. When tragedy strikes this close family with the sudden and unexpected illness and death of Lazarus, we see Martha and Mary and even Jesus in tears. This is what happens to ordinary human beings when they are faced with such a devastating and tragic situation. We get to witness the touching moment where Martha rushes out to meet Jesus and we listen to the conversation they have. We hear the profound confession of faith that Martha makes when she says, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world." Weeping in his humanity and joining Mary and the other mourners, Jesus asks to go to the tomb. To the amazement of all, he orders the stone to be taken away and he summons Lazarus to come forth. Jesus brings life!

The raising of Lazarus is the final "sign" that Jesus performs as related by the evangelist, John. There are only a handful of miracles described in John's Gospel, and he doesn't refer to them as miracles, but rather as "signs." His point is that the action that takes place in the miracle is really pointing to a greater and deeper reality, and that reality in just about every case has to do with life, human life, physical life, and even more so, everlasting spiritual life. The first sign Jesus performs was to change water into wine at the Cana Wedding Feast. We might say that Jesus, at the request of his mother, restored life to the celebration by making this new wine available to the wedding couple and their guests. He gave sight to a blind man, greatly improving his quality of life. He multiplied bread for the hungry crowds and referred to himself as, The Bread of Life. "Whoever eats this bread will never die," he told them. And here we see him restoring human, physical life to his friend Lazarus. He told Martha that he himself was indeed the resurrection and the life, and that all who believe in him, even if they die, will live.

Ironically this gift of restored life to Lazarus was the final straw that drove the antagonists of Jesus to manipulate his arrest, torture, and death by crucifixion. But this was not the end of things as we know so well. For, Jesus rose from the dead as we will celebrate in two short weeks. No tomb could contain Him. The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus is in reality a flowing continuum, a singular redemptive action that is the promise of eternal life for all who believe in him and follow his commandment to "Love one another." The Lazarus miracle was a sign of what Jesus has done for all of us. It is the promise that if, as Jesus told Martha, we believe in Him and follow his way, we will find the truth, a truth that will set us free because that truth is eternal life with Him.
May this season of Lent help us to travel that distance with Jesus, following closely, believing, even when we face our own suffering and trials whatever they might be. In this way will we realize the promise, and reap the reward of eternal life.

*Fr. Ray Salomone, SJ, worked for several years in the North-West African Province holding various offices and performing various tasks. Presently, he is the Minister to the Jesuit Community at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx, New York, USA. 

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