Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 29, 2020 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

Today’s readings speak about human vulnerability, conquered by God’s invulnerability, as the preface of today’s Mass tells us: “For as true man he wept for Lazarus his friend and as eternal God raised him from the tomb.”

The extraordinary moment of prayer presided over by Pope Francis on Friday is still vivid in our memory. The Pope called the  present time a turbulent storm, when we are all in the same boat. Moreover, he said: “The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.”

The present circumstances remind us of what is said at the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We are vulnerable. Without God, we are nothing.

Every time I read today’s Gospel passage, I am struck by the fact that Jesus did not go  to Lazarus in time to save his friend’s life.  Martha reprimanded Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” (Jn 11:21). The friends of the bereaved family asked: “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” (Jn 11:37). Why did Jesus wait? Why did he not go to his friend immediately? Why did he let Lazarus die?

To the messengers sent by Martha and Mary, Jesus had 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” (Jn 11:4). To the apostles, Christ declared: “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe” (Jn 11:14–15).

The death of Lazarus is a moment of revelation, when Jesus manifests his glory through human vulnerability, illness and death. Today’s first reading says: “I will open your graves and have you rise from them. […] Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ez 37:12–13). We should view the present time of tribulation  as a time of revelation, a time to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, a time to pass from the old to the new, a time to let the Holy Spirit dwell within us. In today’s second reading, Saint Paul says: “But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom 8:8).

Jesus conquers our vulnerability by being vulnerable, like us. He is perturbed by Mary’s tears and weeps from the depths of his human heart when taken to his friend’s tomb. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps 130:1).

Jesus says to Martha: “If you believe you will see the glory of God” (Jn 11:40). We do want to believe! We desire to see your glory, O Lord!

When Saint John Paul II came to Baltimore in 1995 and celebrated Mass at Oriole Park, during the homily he said: “There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection.”

To the Mother of God and our mother, we cry, poor banished children of Eve, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. May she turn her tender gaze toward us and show us the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.  Amen.