Fifth Sunday of Lent 

PREPARING FOR THE WORD
Before you begin take a moment to pray, saying this short prayer by St. John Chrysostom or a prayer in your own words asking the Lord to open up your heart and mind to his Word.       
            O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will
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READING THE WORD                                                                                                     

Lectio or reading is the first step of lectio divina. You are invited to begin by slowly and attentively reading aloud the gospel of the day by yourself or others

Gospel                                                                                   John 11:1-45 (Lectionary: 34)

 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, 
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil 
and dried his feet with her hair; 
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying, 
"Master, the one you love is ill."
hen 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."
The disciples said to him, 
"Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, 
and you want to go back there?"
Jesus answered,
"Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, 
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles, 
because the light is not in him." 
He said this, and then told them,
"Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him."
So the disciples said to him,
"Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved."
But Jesus was talking about his death, 
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. 
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
"Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe. 
Let us go to him."
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, 
"Let us also go to die with him."

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus 
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary 
to comfort them about their brother.
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."
Martha said to him,
"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."

When she had said this, 
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, 
"The teacher is here and is asking for you."
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village, 
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her 
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her, 
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, 
she fell at his feet and said to him, 
"Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, 
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.

For all of the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent go to: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040217.cfm


REFLECTING ON THE WORD

The creation of the world began with this command: “Let there be light!”  And so it happened.  From the void, from nothingness, there was suddenly some-thing.  And so through the entire creation story, the Word of God speaks and everything that is comes into being: the cosmos, the earth, the plants and animals.  Us. 

At Bethany, the Word of God made flesh, Jesus, the Son of God cries out: “Lazarus, come forth!”  And so it happened!  With these words, the dead man, Lazarus, came out, from the darkness of death and the tomb into the light, with the light of life once again shining in his eyes.   

“Let there be light!” And so it happened. 

But God, who is the master of all that He has created, alone among all his creatures, has endowed human beings, made in the divine image and likeness, with the freedom to choose to live either in the light or in the darkness.  

In the third chapter of John’s gospel there is this heartbreaking sentence:  “This is the verdict: that the Light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light.” 

There is something terribly wrong with us as a human family, going right back to our first parents – we rejected God’s will in favor of our own will.  Because of original sin, we prefer disobedience instead of obedience; sin instead of virtue; darkness instead of light and death instead of life. 

Having turned away from the Light and from Life itself, we became subject to the power of sickness, death and corruption.     

To save us from ourselves, from the power of sin which enslaves and ultimately destroys us, the Incarnate Word, Jesus, came to save us. 

In the third chapter of John’s gospel Jesus says:

            “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him might not perish but have eternal life

It is for this reason that the sacred author says not just once but three times, that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.  From the very beginning, it was a word of love spoken by the Father that brought the world into being from nothing.  It was love that brought Jesus to the tomb of his friend Lazarus. So too were the words which Jesus spoke when he cried out into the nothingness of the grave, and brought life out of death.  

There at the tomb of Lazarus Jesus said to Martha and to us:

            “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?” 

Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe.” This is the critical question of baptismal faith.  Authentic Christian faith is never a matter of ideas about God but entrusting ourselves to him and trusting in every circumstance his infinite love for us.  

But Jesus has the power to command us to come out of the grave, not only at the end of the time when all will be all in Christ, but now, in this moment, today.    

In Martha’s final encounter with Jesus in John’s gospel we see her response when Jesus commands: “Roll away the stone”.  Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, by now there will be a stench, he has been dead for four days.”  Martha is warning Jesus that he has reached the outer limits of his authority and power.  ‘You’d better stop now, Jesus, because the smell and the corruption of this awful place will overcome even you.’

But no situation is beyond the power of Jesus to redeem and save. Nothing, however vile and unendurable, no power of evil and death and corruption will prevent the Word of God from bring light and life from the nothingness of death where his beloved friend Lazarus abides. 

No power can prevent Jesus from coming to that place where we lie dead in our sins, either because of our own sinful choices or because of the wounds the sins of others have inflicted upon us. Like Martha, there are places in our lives where we’ve told Jesus he must not go.    A place where we would have to let Jesus see us at our worst, the part of us that is dead and corrupt and foul-smelling. That is just too vulnerable, too wounded, too shameful and humiliating.

Christ commands everyone who would be his disciple to take away the stone and allow him to go beyond the limits we have placed on his power to heal all that is weak and broken and sinful in our lives.   

We do so confident that when Jesus, the Word of God, speaks our name as he did the name of Lazarus and commands us to come out of the grave, we will come forth.

Before he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said to Martha: “Did I not tell you, that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  The great Church Father, St.Ireneaus, said: “Gloria Dei, vivens homo”  The human being, fully alive, is the glory that God seeks.

Our God’s greatest glory, is not the wonders of the cosmos He created, or power or knowledge or wisdom but our transformed lives, freed from the power of sin and fear of death, brought to completion in the new life of baptism, and radiant with the love, compassion and mercy of Jesus. 

Let us listen today, to his voice calling us from death to life, so that God might be glorified. 


PONDERING THE WORD

In meditatio, traditionally, the second stage of lectio divina, we are invited to ponder, as Mary did, “all these things in her heart” as we listen for Jesus, the Incarnate Word to speak to us heart-to-heart. You may find the following questions helpful in doing this.  

1. How is Jesus inviting me to grow closer to him in this gospel?     
2. Is there anything currently in my life, in my past, in my disposition that is keeping me from growing closer to Jesus? 
3. What does it mean for my life to affirm like Martha that Jesus is truly “the Resurrection and the Life”.  

4.  What is the place (or the places) in my life where I need Jesus to bring light and life?

5. In what way or ways is Jesus calling me to “come forth” the death of unbelief and sin? 

6. What prevents me from obeying his command?


PRAYING THE WORD                                                                                                                    

In the third stage of the practice of lectio divina, pondering the Word of God naturally leads to oratio, to prayer.  Having opened your heart to his Word, take a few moments to speak to Jesus as a friend converses with a friend.


CLOSING PRAYER
You may wish to conclude your time of prayer using the Collect from this Sunday’s Mass below or the Lord’s Prayer:

O God, who through your Word 
reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, 
grant, we pray, 
that with prompt devotion and eager faith 
the Christian people may hasten 
toward the solemn celebration to come.  
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.