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Sunday Mass

REFLECTION FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

It’s hard to hear the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead without thinking of our own mortality, and perhaps this is particularly the case today in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.  However, today’s Gospel has a wonderful and very heartening message for us all.  Jesus makes a very clear statement about death: death is not the end. This not a theoretical statement, but a present reality and a future hope which has a direct and amazing meaning for each and every one of us.  So much so, that we continue to use these words – this promise - of Jesus in our funeral services – 'I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.' (Jn. 11:25).  In other words, no matter what life may throw at us – disappointment, rejection, suffering, pain, Coronavirus, or even death – our lives as believers in Christ are destined to have a glorious ending.  And that ending is that we will be in the closer presence of Almighty God. 

 

I say “believers in Christ” because the Lord is clear that we must believe in Him. The final outcome of faith in Jesus is life forever in a form that is no longer vulnerable to death, sin, disease or any other destructive force. In this sense Jesus’ words to those around Lazarus – 'unbind him, let him go free' (Jn. 11:44) - are hugely significant for us as Jesus unbinds our bonds of sin and death. This resonates particularly with us in the current Coronavirus crisis. Here is a message of great hope, of great love and of great compassion. Wonderful things happen. Death is no longer the end, it is only a transition, a passage to be gone through, a moving from one sort of life to another: these events and words make that very plain for us all. 

 

In this Gospel account Jesus brings hope – the hope that we have through faith – that we will see the glory of God. Just imagine the joy of Mary and Martha when Lazarus stumbled from the tomb when they thought he was dead.  How might we have felt had Lazarus been dear to us?  We need to remember, however, that what happened to Lazarus was, and is, quite unique – because normal life isn’t usually like that. Belief in God does not free us from having to live in the real world. People we love will become sick and they (and we) will die. Like Mary and Martha we will all experience mourning and grief, we all have to learn how we can live with the loss of people we love. Our faith is not an escape route from reality; we will still have to deal with all that life and death can throw at us. Rather than being a means of escape, our faith provides us with the tools we need to navigate this life, lives set in the eternal context of the life everlasting.  Our faith tells us that Jesus will be there with us even when we are broken-hearted, unsure and frightened.

 

This morning we have been reminded that Jesus wept out of compassion and love. He has huge compassion for this small family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus but that compassion extends to us all. In Holy Week – soon to be upon us - we see that again in His suffering, His Crucifixion and His death for our salvation.

 

We too have a calling to see what it is that makes Him – God incarnate - weep and then to take on the task of trying towards putting that right.  Our present situation is providing so many opportunities to be the people of the 'extra mile' – by word and action. It is part of our calling to turn our world into His world: a caring world; a loving world; a world that is just and safe for all, and a world that weeps for all the times when people are hurt or lost in any sort of way. Whilst our observance of Holy Week this year will be very different because we will not be able to gather together as we walk with Jesus towards Good Friday that need not prevent us from following His steps and His story in reflecting his compassion and love.

 

'I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."