Subj: JOHN 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45: SUNDAY'S GOSPEL FOR REFLECTION
Date: 3/20/99 6:21:38 AM Pacific Standard Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Manuel Tuazon)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God)
For: Sunday, March 21, 1999
5th Sunday of Lent
From: John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45 (Shorter Version)
The Raising of Lazarus (Continuation)
 So the sisters sent to Him (Jesus), saying, "Lord, he whom You love
is ill."  But when Jesus heard it He said, "This illness is not
unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be
glorified by means of it."
 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when He
heard that he was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He
was.  Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go into
 Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the
tomb four days.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went
and met Him, while Mary sat in the house.  Martha said to Jesus,
"Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  And
even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You."
 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."  Martha
said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the
last day."  Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the
life, he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live,  and
whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe
this?"  She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the
Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world."
 When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who came with her
also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled;  and He
said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and
see."  Jesus wept.  So the Jews said, "See how He loved
him!"  But some of them said, "Could not He who opened the eyes of
the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
 Then Jesus deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave,
and a stone lay upon it.  Jesus said, "Take away the stone."
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, "Lord, by this time
there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days."  Jesus
said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would
see the glory of God?"  So they took away the stone. And Jesus
lifted His eyes and said, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard
Me.  I knew that Thou hearest Me always, but I have said this on
account of the people standing by, that they may believe that Thou
didst send Me."  When He had said this, He cried with a loud
voice, "Lazarus, come out."  The dead man came out, his hands and
feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus
said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go.
 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen
what He died, believed in Him.
Commentary (Optional Reading):
1-45. This chapter deals with one of Jesus' most outstanding miracles.
The Fourth Gospel, by including it, demonstrates Jesus' power over
death, which the Synoptic Gospels showed by reporting the raising of
the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:25 and paragraph) and of the son of
the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12).
The Evangelist first sets the scene (verses 1-16); then he gives Jesus'
conversation with Lazarus' sisters (verses 17-37); finally, he reports
the raising of Lazarus four days after his death (verses 38-45).
Bethany was only about three kilometers (two miles) from Jerusalem
(verse 18). On the days prior to His passion, Jesus often visited this
family, to which He was very attached. St. John records Jesus'
affection (verses 3, 5, 36) by describing His emotion and sorrow at the
death of His friend.
By raising Lazarus our Lord shows His divine power over death and
thereby gives proof of His divinity, in order to confirm His disciples'
faith and reveal Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Most Jews,
but not the Sadducees, believed in the resurrection of the body.
Martha believed in it (cf. verse 24).
Apart from being a real, historical event, Lazarus' return to life is a
sign of our future resurrection: we too will return to life. Christ,
by His glorious resurrection through He is the "first-born from the
dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5), is also
the cause and model of our resurrection. In this His resurrection is
different from that of Lazarus, for "Christ being raised from the dead
will never die again" (Romans 6:9), whereas Lazarus returned to earthly
life, later to die again.
4. The glory which Christ speaks of here, St. Augustine says, "was no
gain to Jesus; it was only for our good. Therefore, Jesus says that
this illness is not unto death, because the particular death was not
for death but rather for a miracle, which being wrought men should
believe in Christ and thereby avoid the true death" ("In Ioann.
Evang.", 49, 6).
21-22. According to St. Augustine, Martha's request is a good example
of confident prayer, a prayer of abandonment into the hands of God, who
knows better than we what we need. Therefore, "she did not say, But
now I ask You to raise my brother to life again. [...] All she said
was, I know that You can do it; if you will, do it; it is for you to
judge whether to do it, not for me to presume" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 49,
13). The same can be said of Mary's words, which St. John repeats at
24-26. Here we have one of those concise definitions Christ gives of
Himself, and which St. John faithfully passes on to us (cf. John 10:9;
14:6; 15:1): Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the
Resurrection because by His victory over death He is the cause of the
resurrection of all men. The miracle He works in raising Lazarus is a
sign of Christ's power to give life to people. And so, by faith in
Jesus Christ, who arose first from among the dead, the Christian is
sure that he too will rise one day, like Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians
15:23; Colossians 1;18). Therefore, for the believer death is not the
end; it is simply the step to eternal life, a change of dwelling-place,
as one of the Roman Missal's Prefaces of Christian Death puts it:
"Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the
body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting
dwelling place in Heaven".
By saying that He is Life, Jesus is referring not only to that life
which begins beyond the grave, but also to the supernatural life which
grace brings to the soul of man when he is still a wayfarer on this
"This life, which the Father has promised and offered to each man in
Jesus Christ, His eternal and only Son, who 'when the time had fully
come' (Galatians 4:4), became incarnate and was born of the Virgin
Mary, is the final fulfillment of man's vocation. It is in a way the
fulfillment of the 'destiny' that God has prepared for him from
eternity. This 'divine destiny' is advancing, in spite of all the
enigmas, the unsolved riddles, the twists and turns of 'human destiny'
in the world of time. Indeed, while all this, in spite of all the
riches of life in time, necessarily and inevitably leads to the
frontiers of death and the goal of the destruction of the human body,
beyond that goal we see Christ. 'I am the resurrection and the life,
He who believes in Me...shall never die.' In Jesus Christ, who was
crucified and laid in the tomb and then rose again, 'our hope of
resurrection dawned...the bright promise of immortality' ("Roman
Missal", Preface of Christian Death, I), on the way to which man,
through the death of the body, shares with the whole of visible
creation the necessity to which matter is subject" ([Pope] John Paul
II, "Redemptor Hominis", 18).
33-36. This passage gives an opportunity to reflect on the depth and
tenderness of Jesus' feelings. If the physical death of His friend can
move Him to tears, what will He not feel over the spiritual death of a
sinner who has brought about his eternal condemnation? "Christ wept:
let man also weep for himself. For why did Christ weep, but to teach
men to weep" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 49, 19). We also
should weep--but for our sins, to help us return to the life of grace
through conversion and repentance. We should appreciate our Lord's
tears: He is praying for us, who are sinners: "Jesus is your friend.
The Friend. With a human heart, like yours. With loving eyes that
wept for Lazarus.
"And He loves you as much as He loved Lazarus" ([Blessed] J. Escriva,
"The Way", 422).
41-42. Through His sacred humanity Jesus is expressing Himself as the
natural Son of God, that is, He is the metaphysical Son of God, not
adopted like the rest of men. This is the source of Jesus' feelings,
which helps us to understand that when He says "Father" He is speaking
with a unique and indescribable intensity. When the Gospels let us see
Jesus praying, they always show Him beginning with the invocation
"Father" (cf. note on Luke 11:1-2), which reflects His singular trust
and love (cf. Matthew 11:25 and par.). These sentiments should also in
some way find a place in our prayer, for through Baptism we are joined
to Christ and in Him we became children of God (cf. John 1:12; Romans
6:1-11; 8:14-17), and so we should always pray in a spirit of sonship
and gratitude for the many good things our Father God has given us.
The miracle of the raising of Lazarus, which really is an extraordinary
miracle, is a proof that Jesus is the Son of God, sent into the world
by His Father. And so it is, that when Lazarus is brought back to
life, people's faith in Jesus is increased--the disciples' (verse 15),
Martha's and Mary's (verses 26, 40) and that of the people at large
43. Jesus calls Lazarus by name. Although he is really dead, he has
not thereby lost his personal identity: dead people continue to exist,
but they have a different mode of existence, because they have changed
from mortal life to eternal life. This is why Jesus states that God
"is not God of the dead, but of the living", for to Him all are alive
(cf. Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:38).
This passage can be applied to the spiritual resurrection of the soul
who has sinned and recovers grace. God wants us to be saved (cf. 1
Timothy 2:4); therefore we should never lose heart; we should always
desire and hope to reach this goal: "Never despair. Lazarus was dead
and decaying: ' Iam foetet, quatriduanus enim est". By now he will
smell; this is the fourth day", says Martha to Jesus.
"If you hear God's inspiration and follow it--'Lazare, veni foras!:
Lazarus, come out!'--and you will return to Life" ([Blessed] J.
Escriva, "The Way", 719).
44. The Jews prepared the body for burial by washing it and anointing
it with aromatic ointments to delay decomposition and counteract
offensive odors; they then wrapped the body in linen cloths and
bandages, covering the head with a napkin--a method very like the
Egyptians', but not entirely extending to full embalming, which
involved removing certain internal organs.
Lazarus' tomb would have consisted of a subterranean chamber linked to
the surface by steps, with the entrance blocked by a slab. Lazarus was
moved out to the entrance by a supernatural force. As happened in the
case of the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5;42-43), due to their
astonishment no one moved until our Lord's words broke the atmosphere
of silence and terror which had been created.
St. Augustine sees in the raising of Lazarus a symbol of the Sacrament
of Penance: in the same way as Lazarus comes out of the tomb, "when you
confess, you come forth. For what does 'come forth' mean if not
emerging from what is hidden, to be made manifest. But for you to
confess is God's doing; He calls you with an urgent voice, by an
extraordinary grace. And just as the dead man came out still bound, so
you go to Confession still guilty. In order that his sins be loosed,
the Lord said this to His ministers: 'Unbind him and let him go'. What
you will lose on earth will be loosed in Heaven" (St. Augustine "In
Ioann. Evang.", 49, 24). Christian art has used this comparison from
very early on; in the catacombs we find some one hundred and fifty
representations of the raising of Lazarus, symbolizing thereby the gift
of the life of grace which comes through the priest, who in effect
repeats the words to the sinner: "Lazarus, come out."
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text
taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries
made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of
Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock,
Co. Dublin, Ireland. Printed in Hungary.
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