HOMILY FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT CYCLE A March 29, 2020
Today we have another long Gospel. Well, it is Lent after all.
The Gospel is a little odd, in that Jesus throughout the Gospel comes across as kind of out-of-sorts, or even upset and unhappy. This is true especially to Scripture scholars more attuned to the nuances of the original Greek.
What is going on? Why is Jesus up-tight? First of all, even though Jesus knows that Lazarus, his friend, is deathly sick, Jesus does nothing. He goofs off for a couple of days till He is pretty sure it is already too late.
That doesn’t much seem like what a good friend would do. I mean, before all this carona virus stuff started, if you knew a good friend was deathly sick you would go see the person, or at least call. But Jesus plunks down and remains where He is for two whole days.
This was on purpose. Because Jesus wants His friends and His apostles, and us too, to recognize Him as something much, much more than a wonder worker who fixes problems. Jesus wants them, and us, to come to faith in Him in a much, much deeper way as our Saviour.
Finally, Jesus decides to go when He is sure Lazarus is dead and it is too late to save him. Jesus has something else in mind. Jesus talks on one level, but His disciples and Lazurus’ sisters talk on another level. Jesus says that He is going to awaken Lazarus. The disciples mis-understand. They think Jesus is talking about ordinary sleep. Jesus is referring to death. Jesus is always talking on a level above the others, and it is hard for them, and us, to make that leap.
Jesus gets there and Martha goes out to meet Him. “Lord, if you had been here, (if you had come when I called you and not dilly-dallied), my TWO brother would not have died.” Sounds like an accusation to me. Martha is looking for a miracle worker. Someone who can fix things in this life.
But Jesus wants her – and us – to come to a much, much deeper faith. That Jesus is not just a wonder worker, but He is Life Himself. Jesus states: “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.” Jesus is teaching Martha, and us, that He is much more than just a panacea for our passing problems.
Martha alerts Mary, and she comes to Jesus. She says the same thing: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” In other words, you came too late. Mary is also thinking of Jesus as a wonder-worker.
This greatly bothers Jesus, because He is looking for a different and deeper kind of faith. The Gospel states, “he became perturbed and deeply troubled.” Jesus is upset, not by the presence of death, but because of the lack of understanding, comprehension, and faith in Him in a much deeper way.
We are told, “Jesus wept.” So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But in the Gospel of John they are always getting it wrong. The Greek means that Jesus is so frustrated, so upset, so angry that He weeps. What Jesus is looking for is faith, and that is the last thing Jesus is getting.
Some of the Jews said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” They are continually misreading Jesus as a wonder worker, a faith healer, and not going deeper to understand His true nature as the Son of God.
And so the Gospel states, “So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.” Perturbed yet again. Through most of this Gospel Jesus is frustrated and upset.
Jesus, to help us see deeper into Who He truly is, calls Lazarus back to life.
Good for Lazarus? Well, not really. Being called back to life was not really a very good solution for Lazarus. He would still face aches and pains. We know he faced persecution, because in the next chapter of John we are told: “And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.” And Lazarus had to die yet again.
Jesus does not come to give temporary, partial fixes. Jesus died for our salvation, to live fully and eternally with Him. That is a real solution. That is a permanent fix, if you will.
Jesus may keep us from getting the carona virus. Or our family, or our loved ones and friends. But more likely He won’t intervene. It will seem to us like He is still at the beginning of today’s Gospel, dilly dallying and fooling around and not paying any attention. We pray, “Jesus save us, heal us!” But He seems not to listen.
But Jesus did not become human, did not suffer and die on the cross and be raised up to eternal life, in order to save us from the carona virus. Instead, Jesus saved us for something far better, far more wonderful, and much much longer than life on earth. Because we all eventually will die. If not from carona virus, then something else. Eventually every one of us will succumb.
But, in this Gospel Jesus assures us of something extremely important: “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.” That is much bigger than any epidemic. That is the Good News. That is Gospel.