Ezekiel 37: 12-14;
Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8;
Romans 8: 8-11;
John 11: 1-45
In the first reading, Prophet Ezekiel reminds the people who are in exile that even though it seems like they have no life, God promises to breathe the divine life back into them and raise them to new life. Even those who are dead and buried are being called from the grave to life with God.
Psalm 130 promises fullness of redemption to those who trust in the Lord. With the Lord, there is life. Without the Lord, there is only death and death to all relationships.
Second reading St. Paul reminds us that we are called not to live in the flesh – the sinful ways of the world – but to live in the Spirit, the Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead and who will raise our mortal bodies to eternal life. We need to die to our life of sin and be raised to the new life and full relationship with God, in and through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Gospel passage today is the story of the raising of Lazarus. As typical of St. John's writing, there is much for us to ponder. Jesus, from the beginning of the passage, realizes that Lazarus will be raised from the dead for glorifying God. Jesus is willing to risk, being arrested in order to bring life to one whom He loves. Jesus speaks of death as slumber from which Lazarus must be awakened. Jesus shows true compassion for "suffering with" Mary and Martha in their time of grief. Martha, although upset that Jesus did not come sooner, professes her belief in "the resurrection on the last day." Jesus proclaims that He is the Resurrection and the Life and that those who believe in Him will have life even if they are dead. Martha declares her faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Mary also expresses her displeasure that Jesus did not arrive in time to prevent Lazarus' death.
Jesus is moved to tears as He sees how Mary, Martha, and their friends are grieving at the death of Lazarus. When Jesus asks that remove the stone from the entrance to the tomb, practical Martha warns Jesus about the stench from a body that has been decomposing for four days. Jesus calls Lazarus forth and commands those nearby to unbind Lazarus and permit him to be free. This passage lends itself to great reflections that could fill the pages of a book. One such reflection could focus on Jesus' love for Lazarus and his sisters. Jesus has already developed a close relationship with the three members of this family. He has spent time with them. They have tended to His needs and He has blessed them with many hours of sharing the Good News. They have listened attentively to His message. Jesus uses the occasion of Lazarus' deadly sickness to show how much His Abba-Father and Himself love not only Lazarus, but Mary and Martha – and, in turn, each one of us. Jesus knows it is part of His Abba's plan to give life, full life, and resurrected life to those who believe in Him. This new and restored life is all part of the ever-deepening covenant relationship which the Lord Jesus wants with the beloved of God – Lazarus, Martha, and Mary – and us. It is also a foreshadowing of the new life Jesus would bring through His own resurrection from the dead.
One of the things that strike us is that we are not less loved by Jesus than Lazarus, Martha, and Mary are loved by Him. Jesus wants to close a relationship with us as He has with the three siblings of today's Gospel. And just as He challenges Mary and Martha to believe in Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life, He also asks us to profess our faith in Him. Jesus is waiting for us to say the words which Martha spoke: "Yes, Lord, we have come to believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God – He Who is to come into the world."
The powerful message that rings out from the readings today is simply that Jesus loves me no less than He loves Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus wants me to be in as close a relationship as He has with the three members of the household of Bethany. Jesus wants to share the fullness of life with me – right now, not just at the end of our life. All we need to do is to put my trust in the Lord Jesus and give praise and glory to His Abba – my Abba. What a powerful thought. We are humbled and feel loved. We want to respond by living not in our sinful way but the Spirit Praise be to God for sending Jesus to proclaim this message to me – and you and to the entire humanity which is passing through a time of great challenge, trembling and fear.