5th Sunday of Lent
Elk. 37: 12-14
Rom. 8: 8-11
John 11: 1-45
INTRODUCTION: The Gospel for Cycle A from the 3rd to the 5th Sunday come as in a crescendo: from thirst to blindness to death — all metaphors for the spiritual dysfunctions we find ourselves in. To the woman at the well, Jesus presents himself as living water that satiates all our longings. To the man born blind, Jesus is the light that heals our blind eyes. Now in raising Lazarus, Jesus presents himself as resurrection and life to someone who is dead. We sinners, as we all, are thirsty and nothing in the world can satisfy us fully. We are blind and no worldly pattern can allow us to see clearly. We are dead and none of us can bring himself back to life.
(1) In our culture where the Ego reigns supreme, this acknowledgment of utter helplessness, of being lost with no recourse is very important because it opens us to the Christian reality of our need for a savior. Jesus is our Savior who comes to save us.
(2) There are three episodes of raising from the dead in the Gospels: the daughter of Jairus whom Jesus called Talitha Kuomi in Mark 5: 21; the only elderly son of the Widow of Naim in Luke 7: 1 and this one of Lazarus. Each of these symbolize, according to St. Augustine, different levels of spiritual death. Jairus’ daughter represents the first stirrings of sin. The elder son being brought out of the house for burial stands for more serious types of sin and Lazarus — now four days in the tomb — represents one totally sunk in sin and irretrievably dead. Jesus deals with each of them different strategies because the three have different levels of dysfunctions.
(3) Let us concentrate for now how Jesus deals with his dead friend Lazarus:
*“Jesus became perturbed and deeply troubled.” (v. 33) The Incarnation involves the taking-on by God of our human nature in all its peculiarity. God felt what it is like to lose a friend, even to the point that “Jesus wept.” (v. 35)
*In the Gospels, Jesus is described as weeping three times: over Jerusalem for its lack of faith (Mt. 23:37//Lk. 13:31); in the Garden of Gethsemani in fear and sorrow (Lk.22:44) and here at the death of Lazarus. Imagine your worst enemy — or your best friend — weeping in sorrow, but now God no less is weeping in sorrow over our sin and death! That is how seriously God takes our sins!
*“Where have you laid him?” (v.34) God is looking for his friend, reminiscent of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after the fall when they were hiding from Him because they were ashamed to Him and God was looking for them and us because we have wandered away from his presence.
*”Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave and a stone lay across it. “Take away the stone,” Jesus directed. (v. 38) The description of the tomb reminds us of Jesus’ own tomb at the Resurrection.
*“. . . He cried out in a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43) Jesus’ words are creative unlike ours which are only descriptive! Because he is who says he is what Jesus says is! His voice is the voice that spoke at Creation and it came to be. By the way, the same voice that said to Jairus’ daughter “Talitha Kuomi!” and to Lazarus, “Come out!” is the same voice that says to the bread and wine at the Eucharistic Table: “This is my body . . . This is my blood!”
*“The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with the burials bands, his face wrapt in a cloth. So Jesus said to them: ‘Untie him and let him go!’ “(v. 44)
CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: The point of the story is who cares where you are now or how deep in death you may be? God hates death and the ways of death and so He says to you and me: “Untie him and let him go!” Listen to that voice and allow the Lord to say to you and me: “Untie him and let him go!” God is pleading to our President Digong and to the Lawmakers of the Land on behalf of the convicts and criminals and addicts of all kinds: “Untie them and let them go!” Mr. President, what the Church and the Bishops you curse are doing is rehabilitating the victims of your War on Drugs. The addicts who die whether “death under investigation” or “killed during police operation” are in fact summary execution or EJK but alas also the victims of disconnection from the society we have made all these years!
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches