SCRIPTURE ( Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A )
JN 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45
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 rise."
"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.
Like every couple, Maribeth and I have disagreements. What often moves these disagreements to arguments is how we interpret what the other person says. Communication is a two-way endeavor and the truth is what we hear is received through the lens of our past. What we hear is often interpreted from a place of fear, insecurity, judgment or jealousy. It is our own “stuff” that accelerates the argument and causes more hurt and pain. Left on their own, unchecked or confronted these are symptoms that could lead to the death of a relationship. Not facing our fear, insecurity, judgment or jealousy can become the wrappings of death that bind and paralyze us.
Fortunately, the Good News is a paradox of life emerging from death. It is a story that echoes the human experience. Being human is experiencing loss, failure, brokenness and death time and time again. We lose friends, jobs, hope, youth and eventually our lives. All of nature, shows that through the changing of the seasons, the planting or “death” of a seed, or the growth of a flower through concrete, new life can emerge from loss and death. Life will always win out. We are a part of a cycle of life, growth, death and rebirth. It is a microcosm of our story of faith. Raising Lazarus from the dead is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death and Resurrection. It affirms our daily experience of life, failure and new opportunities. The disciples are confused Jesus took so long to get to the tomb. They regret that Jesus didn’t save Lazarus before he died. Jesus tells them that “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.” It is to give glory to our God of forgiveness, our God of healing; our God of second chances; our God of hope; our God of life. Jesus then commands Lazarus to come forth from the tomb. Although returned to life he needs to be untied from burial bands and cloths that hold him bound.
Each one of us is like Lazarus. We wear the burial bands and wrappings of death. One might be able to imagine the names of our sins written on each cloth. For some it might be prejudice, greed, insensitivity, control, addiction, anger or fear. For Maribeth and I, the burial cloths from which we need to be untied are the things that allow us to misinterpret the words of the other. Those names are fear, insecurity and jealousy. Regardless of their names those items bind us in hurt and resentment. We are untied through forgiveness and mercy. It would be wonderful if neither of us had any issues. It would be more peaceful if there were never any disagreement. That simply is not real. Our choice then is to remain tied and bound in the burial cloths of death or to seek life. The life comes first from forgiveness, compassion and understanding. Then it comes by embracing the commitment we have made to one another. This commitment demands that we continue to grow as individuals and a couple. Often, when things settle down, there is an opportunity to reflect, when we can address the shortcomings that contributed to the argument. We change. We embrace life more fully. I am humbled and grateful that Maribeth compassionately offers forgiveness, understanding and another chance. Life wins out!
It is also what God offers us. Even in the midst of what can feel like a devastating loss and death, life emerges through God’s mercy and forgiveness, often surprisingly and miraculously. It happened for Lazarus. In two weeks the greatest victory of life will occur through Jesus. His faith, particularly during the most excruciating death, becomes the antidote for sin and death. It is the miracle that changed the course of history and brought about our ultimate freedom. Therefore, we must always live in hope. An argument, addiction, jealousy, hatred or prejudice is never the end of the story. Death is not the end. Life always will win out. Always!
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
- What are the burial cloths that bind you and keep you from life?
- What are the losses you have experienced? How has life emerged from these challenges?
- What offers you hope?
- How have you seen life win out or overcome ‘death’?
FAST from control. Surrender your day and trust God.
PRAY to live a life of passion, depth and meaning.
GIVE life. Advocate for someone who is vulnerable, so their life will flourish.
Joe Nettesheim is the Founder and Director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991. Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and Cardinal Stritch University Clare Center for Catholic Life. Although they do have the occasional argument, he and his wife Maribeth have a wonderful life, with their blended family of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.