Fifth Sunday of Lent

Fifth Sunday of Lent

At some point all of us have to face death in some form: the loss of a loved one, a relative, a friend, or the recognition of our own mortality in the face of sickness or old age. We have all spoken words of comfort to those who mourn and, no doubt, felt that such words do not really do justice to the situation. Sometimes as we utter such condolences, we can feel the presence of a contradiction arising between what we see: death and grief, and what we profess to believe: the resurrection and eternal life.

Feeling helpless in the face of death should not surprise us, indeed, feeling a gulf between the unseen life eternal and the visible, tangible reality of death is no uncommon reaction. The grief that such separation brings is very real and we see clearly that painful reality in today’s Gospel. Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus, is dead and Mary and Martha are mourning the loss of their brother as they face an uncertain future. Jesus enters into their grief and is moved by their plight, in fact he is deeply troubled by the outward reality that is death. What He does in the face of this death is quite astonishing and in raising Lazarus He gives the people a great sign by which they might know that He is the Christ.

But it is not simply in the action of restoring Lazarus to bodily life that we see the glory of God at work, it is in the way that he clearly shows the women and his disciples that He is the bridge between the seen and unseen, the visible and the invisible. He is the very real and true link by which our apparent contradiction in grief is removed. “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.”

Much of what we see in life is fleeting, we catch glimpses of events and people but the reality of what underpins these moments is much more precious. We can see two people talking or laughing together but the friendship or love which binds them to one another is much more compelling than the surface impression, it is something altogether greater and more powerful. We have to lift our eyes and raise our minds to appreciate such things, we have to try to see beyond what is fleeting to what is eternal. Christ helps us to do this in His very person as He did with the mourners at Bethany. Indeed, through His subsequent passion and death, He reveals to us all the reality of that which we cannot see without the eyes of faith. If we allow Him to show us the truth of unseen things, then the perceived contradictions between that seen and that professed , even in the midst of suffering and death, will be resolved in Him. Like Martha we will be able to answer; “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Graham Hunt OP

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