Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
There are many elements that make this story so compelling -
not the least of which is that Jesus brought a dead man back to life!
The story also reveals that Jesus, who loved everyone,
also had some best friends.
St. John points out clearly that Jesus had a special love for,
a particular relationship with Martha and Mary and Lazarus.
There’s also the revelation of Jesus’ humanity,
captured in the shortest verse in the whole bible, just three words:
John 11:35 - And Jesus wept.
This gospel also tells us ,not once but twice, that Jesus was perturbed.
This is a one-word translation of the three Greek words
ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι
which would be better translated:
“he was deeply moved and shuddered in his spirit.”
This was clearly an emotional moment in the life and ministry of Jesus.
And yet, the element, the verse, the words in this story
that catch my greatest attention are these:
he remained in the place where he was for two days…
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill
he remained in the place where he was for two days.
His special friends, Martha and Mary, had sent word to him
that his beloved Lazarus was dying
but Jesus stayed where he was for two days.
And both Mary and Martha let Jesus know how they felt about this delay.
Both said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The fact that Jesus delayed going to Bethany for two days strikes me
because I’ve known that same delay in my own life
and I have certainly known it in your lives as well.
How many times have we wondered, have we prayed,
have we cried: Jesus, where are you?
How many times have we asked,
Jesus, what are you waiting for?
Jesus, get a move on!
Jesus, please won’t you do something?
I recently bumped into a friend I haven’t seen for a while who told me
about some very difficult burdens he’s carrying right now.
His thoughts are clouded by his circumstances
and his heart is heavy with the problems and worries
facing him and his family and he told me,
“We really need something good to happen…”
I think most of us have been right there where my friend is,
wanting and needing something good to happen,
wanting and needing for Jesus to get on the road
and come to our home, our family, our hearts.
But Jesus waited two days before setting out for Bethany
and when he finally got there, Lazarus had already died.
Perhaps we’ve been waiting for Jesus, for something good to happen,
much longer than two days - maybe two months or two years
or 22 years -- or even much longer than that.
Perhaps Jesus’ delay tested the faith of Martha and Mary -
at least I’m sure that his delay stretched and deepened their faith.
Even after her dead brother had been buried, Martha said,
Even now, Lord, I believe God will give you what you ask for.”
Not even the death and burial of her brother
shook her faith in God.
Of course, this story has a happy and miraculous ending:
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
But we can’t forget that later, we don’t know exactly when,
Lazarus died a second time
and that time Jesus didn’t come to open up a tomb,
Jesus gave him the gift of that life which is for ever,
which is eternal.
This story is meant to help us trust that all shall be well,
that all shall be well - that all manner of things shall be well -
but more often than not,
all shall be well only after things have not been well at all.
As the saying goes:
“Everything will be all right in the end.
If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end…”
Our problems, our difficulties - and Jesus’ delay -
stretch our faith and our view of life
from the here and now -- into eternity.
Are you waiting for Jesus to come?
Have you been waiting two days? two weeks? two months? two years?
or 22 years or more?
Because I don’t know, I can’t tell you why he delays in coming,
I can only assure you that he knows you’re waiting,
waiting for something good to happen,
and that he will, finally, come
and that all shall be well, that all shall be well
and that all manner of things shall be well…
And if everything is not yet all right,
it is not yet the end of the story.
Of course, while we wait,
we know there is one place where Jesus does not delay his arriving:
is here at the altar, the table of his healing presence.
Jesus never fails to meet us here in peace,
in the peace he made for us and with us
when he arrived on Calvary to give his life for us on the Cross.
Pray with me that our meeting his timely arrival here
will strengthen us in faith for those times when he delays in coming
for even now, we believe,
God will give him whatever he asks for.
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