Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)
Four Consolations for Martha and Mary and Us
Msgr. Thomas Gervasio
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is a fateful turning point in Our Lord’s ministry because it is this event that hardened the resolve of Jesus’ enemies to have him killed. Let’s look today at four stages of this dramatic scene that reveal how Jesus works in our life.
I: Delay Not Dismay
Doesn’t it seem strange that on hearing that his dearest friend Lazarus is ill, Jesus does not rush to Bethany to heal him as he had healed so many others? Not only that, but Jesus remains two days where he was.
God’s delays are mysterious. Archbishop Sheen would say, “Heaven’s clock is different from ours.” And of course this frustrates us and it disturbs our prayer. Does the Lord not hear me in my pain and in my struggles? We do not always understand what God is up to. Yet so often God permits what we might call a “divine delay” to achieve something greater in us.
St. Peter wrote: “You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials. But this so that your faith, more precious than any fire-tried gold, may lead to praise, honor and glory when Jesus Christ appears.”
Long suffering Job said: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
St. Paul wrote: For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal glory beyond all comparison.”
During my seminary days in choir, we sang an old gospel hymn that ends with the words: “For now it is enough for us to know that God permits our struggles for a season and for a reason.” God’s “delay” is so often a preparation for something even greater to take place.
II: Faith Opens the Door of Blessing
The Lord desires to accomplish great things in us, but there is one all-important prerequisite—faith. Did you notice that before raising Lazarus and dispelling their grief, Jesus inquires into the faith of Martha and Mary? “Your brother will rise. Do you believe this?” Faith opens the door to God’s blessings.
Jesus said: “All things are possible to him who believes” and “If you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move.’”
III: Jesus Knows Our Heart
Coming upon the scene Jesus became deeply troubled and wept—so much so that the Jews said, “See how much he loved him—even though he intended to raise Lazarus. This is something for us to remember!
For this moment Jesus enters our experience of grief and loss. The Lord understands our tears, our grieving at the loss of our loved ones. But why was the Lord troubled or angry? One writer suggests that the Lord was angry with death itself. Angry at what sin had brought about. Death entered the world because of sin. Here again Jesus enters our experience of grief and loss. It can be that at the death of a loved one we can often be angry. Jesus too is angry at the death of his friend and is passionate to set things right. He will act.
IV: Death is not the Last Word
Our Lord will not be overcome by Satan, even when all seems lost. He cries out in the loud voice, “Lazarus come out!’ With faith in Christ, we can always say, “Death is not the last word.” Christ points us to Easter.
The drama of the raising of Lazarus is presented to us during our Lenten observance so that we might appreciate in a greater way how the Lord works within our life:
- Heaven clock is different from our own. Delay should not cause dismay
- The Lord seeks our faith and makes it the key to blessings
- The Lord is not unmoved by our grief and anger. He experienced it.
- Death is not the last word…the Lord prevails. The cross is also the tree of victory.
Let these be the four great consolations that will carry us through the darkness of our Good Fridays to the bright Easter that awaits us.