Reflection for the Vigil of the Fifth Sunday of Lent 2014

5 April 2014
by  Deborah Peters, OSB

 Gospel: John 11: 1-45

 I have been asked to reflect on one of the most amazing gospels in scripture, and what a perfect one to think about on the day of S. Lillian’s funeral.  In my preparation for this gospel, I was left with feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty which in turn left me with two thoughts. First, I remembered a nonsense rhyme I learned in grade school. It goes like this--"Ladies and gentlemen, I am here before you . . . to tell you something I know nothing about" and my second thought was to consider what the previous Lenten gospels of Cycle A have to say that lead to this gospel.

The four preceding gospels are almost a character description of Jesus.  Briefly, the first (Matt 4:1-11) and second (Matt 17:1-9) Sundays complement each other.  In the first, the tempter taunts Jesus with the words "If you are the son of God ..." to which Jesus’s answers show his faithfulness to God. In the second gospel, Jesus is physically and spiritually at a high place and the taunts of the first Sunday are spurned with God’s words "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased." The third (John 4: 5-42) and fourth (John 9:1-41) Sunday gospels show Jesus conversing with intelligent, witty, and knowledgeable persons—a man and woman, both of whom are outcasts. To one he gives living water to the other sight. He seems to enjoy his time with them, and in turn their faith is strengthened by his words. So, in a way, the Church’s gospel selections reassure us that Jesus is both human and divine in his suffering and his acceptance of and by God; further, we know of Jesus's great love for all of God’s people. Indeed, these dramatic gospels reveal the loving and faithful character of Jesus.

The gospel of the fifth Sunday, as we just heard, relates Jesus’s raising of Lazarus from the dead and leaves many scripture scholars proposing contradictory speculations and assumptions. Certainly, there are questions.   Why did he wait until Lazarus was dead for four days?, Why did he weep?, How is the passage about stumbling and light connected to this story?, Why is he so distraught when he knows he is going to bring Lazarus back to life?, What are Martha and Mary’s roles in this drama?  Beyond speculation, I do not know the answer to these questions. What I do know is this-- Jesus is about to build the foundation of his Father’s kingdom.  He is about to prove that he and his father are one. “I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, "Jesus says to God," so that they might believe you have sent me." He shows his great love for God’s people.  He weeps for his faithful friends in their grief. He longs for them and us to believe. It is for this he came. Jesus did it. Jesus does it. Those we love who have died are alive.  We too will be raised to life. That is what it is all about. We are a part of God’s kingdom. We can help the outcast, the blind.  We can be witnesses to faith in a God who loves us, has compassion for us, and gives us life. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me even though they die, they will live." For now--it is for us, God’s beloved children, to live for, to serve, and to love God’s people.