Life after loss, life after death...

The Raising of Lazarus by James Martin

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for homily

For whom do you grieve?
A spouse? a parent? a child?
a brother, a sister? grandparents? friends?

For what do you grieve?
A broken relationship? a lost job?
a home or a place you lived?
a dashed hope? a broken promise?

We all have many experiences of grief and Jesus grieved, too,
as he does here for his friend, Lazarus.

The whole story is told in the verbs:
Jesus hears… his friend is very sick
Jesus delays… waiting two days before leaving for Bethany
Jesus arrives… too late, it seems
Martha prays... Oh, if only…
Jesus consoles… his friends
Jesus promises… life yet to come
Jesus is deeply troubled… by the grief all around him
Jesus weeps… over the loss of his friend
Jesus prays… in grief, he turns to his Father
Jesus calls out... and Lazarus is raised

Is our experience much different?

We hear the news… things aren’t good for someone we love.
We delay, we deny… we don’t want to believe it.
We pray for all to be well…
We arrive… we come to face the loss.
We wonder why God let this happen… “Oh, if only…”
We console one another…
We are deeply troubled… we weep.
We hope… for life beyond the loss so heavy in our hearts.
We believe… even in our grief, we believe.

Like Martha and Mary, we “send word to Jesus,” we pray
when we fear we’re about to suffer a great loss.

Like the two sisters we wait for the Lord
but the Lord does not always come in time:
often, it seems, the Lord delays,
and we are left in the sadness of our loss.

Yet, still, we turn to the Lord who delayed
and ask now that he be with us and comfort us in our grief.

Deeply disappointed, deeply troubled,
that God has not done what we prayed for,
has not done what he could have done,
we believe, at the same time, that in all things,
even in our greatest losses, the Lord is still with us
and will one day bring us all to life, together, with him.

The beauty of this gospel is how it reveals so clearly
that Jesus is one with us,
that he knows our suffering through his own experience:
that like every one of us, he, too, was troubled, deeply,
and knew the heartache of losing a loved one;
that he, too, prayed in his grief, trusting his Father,
even when it seemed too late for prayer.

Through Jesus and with Jesus,
we see that there is life after loss, there is life after death,
that God is with us in our joys and our sorrows
and will one day give us what Jesus gave Lazarus:
life beyond the grave in the company, again,
of those we love and those who love us in this life.

We hear this gospel in the season of Lent
as we prepare to remember, solemnly,
how much Jesus grieved for us.

Jesus grieved the loss of friends
who betrayed and left him in his darkest hour,
even crying out to his Father from the Cross,
“Why have you abandoned me?”
yet entrusting his grief, his loss, his suffering to the same One,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Jesus grieved our sins, yours and mine.
He grieved our failings and selfishness by carrying our burden
that we might be untied from the death’s wrappings
and freed for life, for ever, with him.

At this altar, we offer the sacrifice Jesus offered on the Cross.

At this table, we receive the Eucharist,
the gift of the life the Crucified, now Risen.

In this supper we have a taste and a sip
of the banquet prepared for us
in that life with God where there is no grief but only joy,
where there is no loss, for all is found,
where there is no death but only life for ever,
in peace, 
in Christ.

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