5th Sunday, lent 2020
John’s Gospel begins with a wedding and closes with a funeral. There are four primary characters in this story: Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. John tells us that he “loved” them. The funeral rituals of Jesus’ day were obviously different from ours. When somebody died, there was no embalming. Instead, the body was wrapped in linen and, before sunset on the day of death, was put into the burial vault — a cave carved into limestone rock – often with myrrh, frankincense, and perfumes. Then there was intense mourning for seven days followed by a less intense mourning period of twenty-three days.
The story of the raising of Lazarus proclaims the great truth that Jesus is Lord of life. He has the power to call us out of our tombs – for the Christian life only begins when we, even though we are dead, hear the word of God and obey it. We know from experience that we don’t have to be dead physically to be in need of being raised up. WE can be dead in the midst of life – hoping for a word and a community that will put us together again.
There can be many dark areas in our private life. We often bind ourselves with strings of addiction to alcohol, drugs, sexual deviations, slander, gossip, envy, prejudices, hatred, and uncontrollable anger and bury ourselves in the tombs of despair. Jesus asks us today to seek his help and that of the community around us to loosen those chains and come out of tombs of our own creation. Is there an area of life where hope is gone? Do we want to lock it up in a tomb and seal it away from Jesus or are we willing to have Jesus visit this area? Are there times when we refuse to let God enter into our wallets, fearing that faithful tithing will endanger our savings? Are we in the tomb of spiritual death caused by sin? Are we in the tomb of selfishness filled with negative feelings such as worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt? When we go to Confession, Jesus will stand before our tomb. He will call our name and cry out “Come out”!
If we want Jesus to visit the dark dungeons of sin, despair, and unhappiness, let us ask Jesus during this Holy Mass to bring the light and the power of His Holy Spirit into our private life and liberate us from our tombs. Let us name the parts of ourselves that are wounded or dead, imprisoned or in darkness, and then give them to him to be healed, raised up and set free. Let us name our darkness, our prison and our wounds – whatever these may be – and give them all to him. As a parish community, let us stand before the world and accept the challenge to untie those who are bound and help them to come out from their self-made graves. Jesus calls each of us by name to come out of our graves and help others to do the same.