Sunday, April 2, is the Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A). Mass Readings: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalms 130:1-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
Today’s Gospel reading about the raising of Lazarus is a perfect example of a lesson Father Jay Kythe at Benedictine College taught. In the Gospels, when Jesus heals, the healing is not for the sole sake of the one healed, but for the sake of others.
The Gospel begins with Jesus’ close friends Mary and Martha sending word to Jesus about their brother’s illness: “Master, the one you love is ill.”
Jesus’ response immediately identifies the true importance of Lazarus’ condition: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God.”
Then, instead of rushing to his close friend’s side, he stays where he is for two days while Lazarus dies. When he tells his apostles about this, he says something very odd: “I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe.”
As we will soon learn, Jesus is anything but “glad” about the devastating loss of his close friend. So what is he glad about?
He is glad about all the benefits raising of Lazarus from the dead will have — for us.
Because of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, we get to hear Martha explain Jesus’ power to us: “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.”
We also get to hear Martha tell us who Jesus is — “the Christ, the Son of God” — and what he intends for his friends: “the resurrection on the last day.”
We also get to hear some of the most comforting words of Jesus in the entire Gospel: “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.”
The Lazarus miracle also teaches us the total power Jesus has over his creation. He raises a man who has been in the tomb for four days, such that onlookers expect “a stench” from the corpse.
No wonder “many of the Jews … began to believe in him.” This miracle-for-the-sake-of-others was a huge success.
This is not to say Jesus doesn’t want to raise Lazarus for his own sake. He weeps over his friend and becomes “perturbed” as he performs the miracle. He makes his personal care for him clear.
But that is all the more reason to take this lesson to heart. If we have asked for healing — for ourselves or for a family member — we may be disappointed that we have not received it. But that doesn’t mean Jesus can’t, or won’t, heal us.
Father Kythe is right: The healing is never just for me, so that I feel better, and my pain goes away. Jesus is pained by our suffering, just like he was by Lazarus’. But he heals for the sake of others.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence
at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of