Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause
you to rise from them, my people; and I will bring you into the land of
Israel. You shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves,
and caused you to rise from them, my people. I will put my Spirit in you,
and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; and you shall
know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord.
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in
the flesh, but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells
in you. But if one does not have the Spirit of Christ, then he is not his.
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit
is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised
up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from
the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who
dwells in you.
John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27,
The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, "Master, the one
you love is ill." When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to
end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified
through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when
he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he
was. Then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the
tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to
meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had
been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever
you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will
Martha said, "I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes
in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes
in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one
who is coming into the world."
He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, "Where have you
laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." And Jesus wept. So the
Jews said, "See how he loved him." But some of them said, "Could not the
one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?"
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a
stone lay across it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead
man's sister, said to him,
"Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four
days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will
see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his
eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always
hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may
believe that you sent me." And when he had said this, he cried out in a
loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot
with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to
them, "Untie him and let him go."
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done
began to believe in him.
longtime national and international activist in the peace movement, Bishop
Gumbleton is a founding member of Pax Christi USA and an outspoken critic
of the sanctions against Iraq.
has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published
numerous articles and reports.
** Scripture texts in this
work are in modified form from the American Standard Version of the Bible
and are available as part of the public domain.
For your convenience, the
Scripture texts, as they appear in the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the
Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright ©
1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.,
may be found at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic
|Perhaps, we are aware that in Johnís gospel
the events of Jesusí life are described in what are called the seven signs;
special events that become very important signs about who Jesus is. The
first sign thatís recorded in the second chapter of Johnís gospel is that
beautiful event of the wedding feast at Canaan in Galilee. Todayís gospel
is the last - the seventh - of the signs and the most important and most
revealing about who Jesus really is. So it will be important for us to
reflect carefully and deeply on this sign that we see in this event about
Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and their friend Jesus.
This sign, perhaps, is the most profound because
it shows us Jesus in the two very special ways that Jesus is - that Jesus
is truly and fully human. Heís one like us in every way except sin; that
heís fully a human being. He has all of the characteristics that any human
being has, physical body and emotions. He has a mind. He has a heart. He
loves, cries and laughs. Today, we see Jesus being fully human in relation
to his friends. Jesus was able to love these people and be loved by them.
They were very special to him and his relationship to them made him a more
fully human being. He could reach out and love and be loved.
In light of what is happening in our country
and in the church today, though itís not really the point of what we need
to reflect on today, it seems to me that it might be just as important
to at least mention all the terrible things that are happening within the
church - the scandal with the priests and pedophilia. Itís because we havenít
learned how to be really, fully human in our relationships with one another.
People sometimes try to exploit other people.
Thatís what a person whoís a pedophile does - exploits a little child,
doesnít know how to relate in real love and to be loved.
So we must pray for our church and for our
priests in our church, those few who donít have this capacity as Jesus
did to really love and be loved in a healthy and good way - not to be afraid
of loving and being loved, but to do it in a way that is life giving and
not destructive. Surely, thatís what Jesus shows us today if we reflect
on how he related to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and those who were his
deepest and closest friends.
Maybe what is even more important for us though,
as we think about this humanness of Jesus, is how he had such deep compassion.
Lazarus was somebody Jesus loved. Martha and Mary, he loved. So when Jesus
stood there at the tomb and he was fully aware, as we become aware when
we are burying someone close to us, that theyíre gone, theyíre dead, Jesus
wept. He sobbed because he was in love with Lazarus and Martha and Mary,
and he couldnít bear their suffering. He couldnít bear to accept it without
breaking forth and he cried with compassion.
I think thatís important to know about Jesus,
because there are those times where we have had to face the loss of someone
very close to us; sometimes in cruel and unexpected ways when someone is
killed or murdered. Even when someone dies after a long, slow illness,
itís still hard to accept. But we can always know that Jesus is there to
comfort us; that he shares our suffering and our sorrow and he weeps with
I think sometimes about all the terrible suffering
that goes on in our world, the extreme numbers of people who suffer and
die every day. I was reading a report again this week about the number
of poor people who die in the world - 11 or almost 12 million each year.
Thatís a million a month, 250 thousand every week, little children.
Yet, even though thatís a disaster and a tragedy, somehow, we know that
God is suffering with every one of those parents. The heart of God is broken
in Jesus as he weeps for them. And I think thatís important for us to know
about Jesus, that heís there to weep for every person who is taken from
our midst in death. This can be a comfort to us at a time when we need
that kind of comfort.
But the other part of this sign today that
is so important about telling us who Jesus is what Martha says about Jesus,
ďYes, I know you are the Christ, the son of the living God. Youíre the
messiah, the anointed one, the one who is filled with the divinity of God.Ē
So we have the mystery of Jesus, fully human,
one like us in every way except sin and yet also fully God. And what Martha
hears from Jesus, because Jesus is there not just as one like us, one who
loves her in a human way, but because Jesus is there with the power of
God. He tells Martha, ďLazarus will rise again.Ē And Martha says, ďWell
I know thatís what will happen.Ē But she misunderstands Jesus. She thinks
of a time in the far distant future, the end of time, that Lazarus will
rise. Thatís when Jesus says to us the most important thing for us to hear
today: I am the resurrection and the life, not just at the end of
time but right now. Anyone who believes in me will live. If you believe
in me now, you will never die. You have the life of God in you. The spirit
of Jesus lives within you now.
Saint Paul was trying to remind us of that
in the second lesson today - that the spirit of God is within us.
But how many of us really take the time to
be in touch with that spirit of God who lives in my heart. Isnít it true
that we let ourselves be distracted very much? Weíre so busy about so many
things, that we hardly ever take the time just to be quiet and to be in
touch with the spirit of God who is in my heart.
I am the resurrection; I am alive in you now.
And you will never die, really, because you have the spirit of Jesus in
Isnít that the reason why some people we know
can face death and not be afraid, but always be at peace? Someone like
Oscar Romero, whom we have spoken about so many times: ďIíve been
threatened with death many times, but I donít believe in death without
resurrection.Ē He knew Jesus was alive in his heart and he had no
fear. He was confident and at peace, even in the midst of the most terrible
violence. Or Dr. King on the night before he died: ďIíve been to
the mountain top, Iíve seen and I know God is alive in my heart.
I want to live a long life, but I wonít. But Iím not afraid any longer,
it makes no difference.Ē He knew that Jesus was in his heart.
Thatís something that you and I have to try to nurture within ourselves.
In these last two weeks of Lent, maybe we havenít
been as faithful to the spirit of Lent as we wanted to be when we started
at the beginning. Maybe weíve let a lot of things interfere with our efforts
to fast, to do penance, to gather alms for the poor, to pray extra each
day. Maybe we havenít done that. But now in these last two
weeks of Lent, we can make a special effort to be in touch with that spirit
of Jesus thatís in our hearts: ďI am the resurrection and the life.
Anyone who believes in me will never die. And if you live and believe in
me, you will have life forever.Ē Jesus assures us, we must be in touch
with that spirit of Jesus who is within us.
This will help us then to do what Thomas suggests
in the gospel today. Heís convinced that when Jesus goes to Lazarus, heís
going right back into Judea where people hate him and want to kill him.
Thomas says, ďYouíre going to be killed.Ē And yet he says to the other
disciples, ďLetís go with him.Ē Thomas wasnít fully aware of what he was
saying, but he was saying, ďWeíre going to go and weíre going to be like
Jesus.Ē And thatís what each of us has to do in these last two weeks of
Lent - go with Jesus, go with Jesus even to his death on the cross. Not
that we will be nailed to a cross, but that we need to try to have that
spirit of Jesus who really shows us then what God is like.
So often, we think of God as someone who has
power. We wonder why God doesnít destroy all the evil in the world. Why
does God let little children be killed? Why doesnít God do something about
poverty and about violence and about war?
That isnít the kind of God Jesus reveals to
us on the cross. God is a god of love, a god of light, and a god of life.
God is a god who draws all people to himself by reaching out and extending
his arms in love for everyone; forgiveness and love, nonviolence, returning
good for evil. Thatís what Jesus shows as he is nailed to the cross. Not
to try to destroy evil with evil, not to bring violence for violence, hate
for hate, but to transform each of us and our world through his love for
us. Thatís what Jesus shows us on the cross.
So when Thomas says, ďLetís go with him,Ē thatís
what each of us I hope will say these last two weeks of Lent: Letís
go with Jesus and follow his way, the way of forgiveness, the way of love,
the way of compassion, the way of goodness. Thatís the way we will transform
the evil thatís in our hearts and in the world around us. Let us then go
with Jesus these last two weeks of Lent to discover the real love and life
that can come to us through being joined to him by following his way -
the way of nonviolence, compassion and love.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.