Year A: Fifth Sunday of Lent
Gospel: John 11: 1-45
Today’s sign story explores the meaning of death - looking ahead to the events of Holy Week and Easter.
Jesus has heard that his friend Lazarus is ill - and senses that he has, in fact, died.
As he approaches Bethany, He meets Martha who has left the seclusion of traditional mourning to greet Him. She somehow knows that if Jesus had been there then Lazarus would not have died - but has not lost her trust and confidence in Him. Jesus responds to her trust by declaring that anyone who believes in Him will live - and draws her faith further by asking whether she can believe that too. She can - even though she doesn’t fully understand yet what He means - Lazarus still lies in the tomb.
Martha then calls her sister, Mary, who has remained in the house - and she too goes to join Jesus on His way to the tomb.
The surprising thing for those of us who know the end of the story is Jesus’ own reaction when He arrived at the tomb. He weeps - and those around see the depth of His love for Lazarus and his two sisters.
When Jesus asks for the stone to be taken away, Martha assumes that it is to see the body for Himself - and points out that decomposition will have set in. Jesus reminds her of her words earlier - and invites her again to have faith that she will see something that will give glory to God.
He addresses God - thanking Him for hearing the prayer of His heart - and praying that those in the crowd around will see and understand.
Then, Jesus calls to Lazarus - and the man who was dead walks from the tomb back into the world. We can only guess the reactions of those who witnessed this - but Jesus sees only a man bound in grave clothes who needs to be set free from them.
One of the themes running through baptism is death to the old life - and coming into a new life. Because most of us were baptised as babies, much of this sense has been lost - but it is something we can reclaim year by year at Easter - deepening our awareness that, in sin we are dead - but Jesus calls us out to newness of life.
On Holy Saturday night, members of our community will stand before us - and will leave an old life behind - and begin a new one as Catholics. Their heads will be anointed with oil - their new life sealed for Christ...
What does it mean for me?
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