He Who Believes in Me Will Live


He Who Believes in Me Will Live

April 9, 2014 | HNMWebmaster | Discipleship, Faith, Forgiveness, Homilies, Lent, St. John, Trust

5th Sunday of Lent, Year A
April 6, 2014
Readings: Ez 37:12-14, Psalm 130, Rom 8:8-11, Jn 11:1-45
by Rev. Mr. Sal Clarizio, Permanent Deacon

In the gospel reading of today from St. John we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus from death. This miracle is the seventh and greatest of the ‘signs’ that Jesus works in St. John’s gospel. In the raising of Lazarus from death to life, Jesus proves the truth: “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.”

Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were Jesus’ intimate friends. Jesus stayed with them when in Bethany. One day, when Lazarus was sick, the two sisters sent a message to Jesus, “master, the one you love is ill.” this was not only a simple message; it was also a prayer.

For between true friends, no instructions are needed. All that is needed is for one to let the other know his/her situation so he can respond to it the best way he can. Neither does friendship impose; it trusts. That is how it was between Jesus and Lazarus and his sisters. But, Jesus, even after being informed of Lazarus’ illness decided to stay another two days longer in the place where he was. This is not because he did not love Lazarus. This delay was essential to the story, so “that the son of god may be glorified through it.” the longer he stayed, the greater the glory of god would be manifested through the miracle that was to come.

Eventually, Jesus announced to his disciples that they were going to Judea, the province where Jerusalem and Bethany, the home of Lazarus, were situated. The disciples immediately show their concern towards Jesus as the place was dangerous for him and people already tried to stone him.

Jesus’ response is that of courage saying that the daytime is the time for getting things done; when the night comes nothing can be done. He also tells his disciples that Lazarus has fallen asleep and he will go there to wake him up. But the disciples took it literally. So, a little later he specifies that Lazarus was dead and that it was necessary for the sake of the disciples, to see the divine power. This would provide a perfect opportunity to strengthen the faith of the disciples. The passage also tells us of the loyalty of the disciples expressed in the words of Thomas that they are willing to go with him and die with him.

Next we learn that when Jesus arrived outside Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When the news reached the house that Jesus was entering the village, Martha rushed out to meet him, while Mary remained grieving in the house. On meeting Jesus Martha says, “if you had been here, lord, my brother would not have died.”

She has great faith in Jesus and is aware of his healing powers but does not dare to go beyond that.
Then follows this beautiful dialogue.

“Your brother will rise to life,” says Jesus. “Yes, I know that he will rise again on the last day,” replies Martha, reflecting the fairly recent Jewish belief of life after death. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus tells her. This is the core statement of the whole story and is one of the seven great ‘I am’ statements in St. John’s gospel. Jesus continues to clarify his meaning, “Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” In saying this Jesus is not only affirming that life goes beyond the grave but also that the life he gives, begins here and now for all those who accept and totally live his way.
Martha then is asked if she believes this and she responds magnificently, “Yes, Lord! I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” Here is a great confession of faith made by this woman.

Martha now goes back to the house to fetch her sister Mary. She summons her with the beautiful words, “The master is here and is calling for you.”

And Mary rushes out of the house and her fellow-mourners think she is going to visit the tomb of her brother. When she sees Jesus she says the same thing her sister Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”

St. John makes it very clear that Jesus loves Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The reality of the humanity of the divine son is nowhere so easily grasped as here. We now see the very human side of Jesus. Jesus’ love is real and his sorrow at the death of Lazarus is real. When he sees them all weeping he himself was touched and was deeply moved. And, as he walked to the tomb, “he wept.” so, some people commented, “See how much he loved him”.

There were, of course, the inevitable cynics who questioned why Jesus who worked miracles did not prevent Lazarus from dying.
They were jumping the gun and had yet to see the real reason why Lazarus was allowed to die.

Arriving at the tomb, which was a kind of cave built into a rock face, Jesus ordered the stone at the entrance to be removed. That certainly got Martha’s attention and she objected to it. Knowing that Martha still did not understand what he was about to do, Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

After the rock was removed from the entrance, Jesus thanked the father for having heard his prayer.

After this, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” and then, to the amazement of all, at the voice of our lord, Lazarus emerged from the tomb, still wrapped in burial cloths. This miracle, the resurrection of a person who had been dead for four days, is supreme proof that Jesus is Lord, that he has life-giving power.

Finally, the whole story can be read as a parable of the meaning of Jesus as ‘Christ’ and ‘Lord.’
In the entire episode, Jesus is the central figure, who challenged each participant by clarifying the central issue, ————— the real meaning of death and life. The raising of Lazarus is not just the resuscitation of a dead man, but is a powerful symbol of a new life that all of us can undergo when we submit to Jesus as Lord and savior. We can rise from the death of sin to a life bathed in the love of god.

Nothing in life is more certain than death. Yet, many people ask, ‘After death, what?’ Why the question in the first place?

Perhaps because death is the end of our plans and aspirations in life. Perhaps because of the thought of permanent separation from our loved ones. Perhaps because of the uncertainty about what lies beyond.

Or perhaps because we just can not accept the reality of our mortality, namely, sickness, pain and deterioration – physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Jesus, who says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” gives meaning to our pains, trials and even death. When we accept all these in faith and love, then our many other deaths acquire a special meaning.
For when we center our life in Jesus, when we begin to die to our selfishness and live for others, then Jesus will be glorified in us. This is what it means to rise in glory with him even now.

As followers of Jesus, we believe in the resurrection of the dead; that death is not the end of everything. Rather, it is just a passage into eternal life and that the life hereafter is only a continuation of this life. But this life after death could be ours only on one condition, namely, to believe in Jesus, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

During the season of Lent, the church invites us to die to ourselves – the only way for Jesus to become our life and resurrection.

Then our resurrection from our many other deaths will not come as a surprise when Easter comes.

Many Christian individuals and communities today have fallen victim to the death of sin. Many are already in the tomb of hopelessness and decay, in the bondage of an immoral society of sinful habits and attitudes. Nothing short of a miracle can bring us back to life in Christ. Jesus is ready for that miracle.
He himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Are we ready to cooperate with him for the miracle.
Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face?
Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death?
Are we ready to unbind –to forgive one another and let them go free?
These are the various ways we cooperate with God in the miracle of bringing us back to life and reviving us as individuals, as a church, and as a nation.
May Jesus Christ be praised!

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