Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
1) Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. (Refrain:)
2) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered. (Refrain:)
3) I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord. (Refrain:)
4) For with the Lord is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities. (Refrain:)
Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he 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.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “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.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “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. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
If we look carefully at this passage of John’s gospel which we just heard, we will see that there is one word that occurs more than any other. That word is belief (or faith) which occurs eight times. And, in addition to these explicit uses, there are several other places where faith or belief is implied.
For example, at the very beginning of the passage, John points out that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus very much”. In order for John to say this, he must have known it from his own experience. This bond of love must have been readily apparent to anyone who would have known them. It is interesting to note that this bond of love must also have been presumed by Mary and Martha because they only send Jesus the cryptic message "the one you love is sick" to alert him to Lazarus' condition. Notice that they make no plea for Jesus to come and heal Lazarus because they feel confident that this message is enough, that Jesus will come and take care of the situation based simply on this information. In other words, they believe that he will come. But, despite this love, John tells us that Jesus stayed on where he was for two more days.
The first explicit use of the word "believe" occurs when Jesus tells the disciples "Lazarus is dead. For your sakes I am glad I was not there, that you may come to believe."
The second time when belief is implied is when our Lord talks to his disciples about walking in the light. As we all know, in the gospel of John, the light that illuminates our lives is the light of Christ: we walk by faith in the light of Christ.
The next incidence of implicit faith is when Martha says to our Lord: "Even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask of him." In saying "I am sure", Martha is expressing her belief that God will do whatever Jesus asks him to do. Then she says "I know that he will rise again". Once again we have an implicit expression of her faith.
Then we come to several explicit uses of "believe" when Jesus tells Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" And, of course, we have Martha's profession of belief: "Yes, Lord," she replied. "I have come to believe that you are the Messiah."
Having said this, Martha returns to her house to get Mary, who goes to Jesus and says: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died." Again, although it is not explicitly stated, Mary is expressing her belief in Jesus. Her statement could well have been rephrased as: "Lord, I believe that if you had been here, my brother would never have died."
Then there are two more uses of the word "believe" when our Lord tells Martha "Did I not assure you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" and when he prays: "Father, ...I have said this for the sake of the crowd, that they may believe that you sent me."
The final use of the word is when John comments that "many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, ...put their faith in him." Thus, all totaled, we have thirteen times when faith or belief is mentioned either explicitly or implicitly.
The lesson of this gospel passage for us should be clear: we too are called by Christ to believe in him. Sometimes, it is only in our times of deepest need that we turn to him, almost as a last resort. I ran across the following story which I think brings home this point very clearly. The author writes:
- In December 1991, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer, which had grown from its earlier stages because of my initial reluctance to have it examined by a doctor. By mid-January 1992, I was operated on for a colon re-section. During the spring and summer I concentrated on healing, but things inside just weren't right and I knew it. I experienced pain and too many bowel movements each day. A medical procedure searched for the cause, and another procedure opened my rectum. The doctors decided a colostomy was in order. By this time I was pretty tired of being a hospital "bird," and wanted to get it all over with and get on with my life.
A third operation was scheduled. By March 1993, I had my new colostomy and also some bad news. During my operation, the doctor saw cancerous looking tissue but couldn't deal with it and do my colostomy too, so he took some biopsies and closed me up. The biopsies revealed the cancer had returned to the same place (the rectal area) and was spreading. I was depressed beyond belief. It was a rainy, dreary March morning and I watched the feeble light of dawn from my rain-streaked windows. I was depressed and in despair. Lying in the hospital, my doctor's words rang in my ears. "It's a can of worms down there, Paul, you'll need another operation by a skilled team of surgeons who just do this kind of pelvic surgery. I can't do it."
I had always shunned religion and was forever trying to prove a Godless universe to anyone who took the positive view. I was an empiricist and was proud of my intellectual detachment. But lying there that morning full of hopelessness and sick of it all, I asked for God's help.
In a moment, I drifted back into that twilight sleep and I was suddenly surprised to find myself standing on a downtown street complete with sidewalks and curbs. "This is no dream," I thought. "I am really here on this typical American street corner looking around." Just then three people appeared from across the street, walking my way. It was two men and a woman. As they got closer to me, the men sat down on the curb and began talking with each other. The woman came right up to me, smiling and giving out such a force of joy and love that I was completely taken by her presence. She put her arm around me and I felt heavenly bliss.An intense concern and love emanated from her body, completely enthralling me. She was beautiful. Her eyes were brown and her dark hair was cut short, reminding me of Prince Valiant. With her arm around me, she looked into my eyes and said, "You're going to be all right now, no more medical problems. Be happy, don't worry. Everything's going to be okay. Please be happy and don't worry." Then, as we stood there, it was clear that my time was over and they were going to leave. The two men stood up and all three began walking away. I remember how earnestly I implored them to stay. The woman was the last to leave and she turned to me again and said, "Don't worry, be happy. Everything's going to be all right."
Eight months and a series of chemo treatments later, a team of three surgeons at a medical center in Portland, Oregon opened me up (my fourth operation) and found not a trace of cancer, even though only months before both CAT scans and MRI's had found the cancer reaching for my prostate, my bladder and the whole pelvic area. All three doctors were extremely surprised and delighted by what they didn't find. I was absolutely clean--the biopsies that were taken then all came back negative. (1)
Here was a man who had no faith, until he became like Lazarus: sick unto death. Only then was he healed.
Notice that when Jesus was informed of Lazarus’ sickness, he stayed where he was for two more days. Sometimes we call out to God in our despair and it appears that he doesn’t answer us right away. But no matter what the appearances, God has a plan in mind. Our Lord waited so that there would be no question that Lazarus had died before he raised him to life once again. The man in our story had just about given up all hope when, as a last resort, he turned to God in faith for help and God heard him.
In order to bring the lessons of this passage into our own lives, all we need to do is substitute our own name for Lazarus’ wherever it occurs. We are the ones who have been dead because of sin and we are the ones who need Christ to bring us back to life again. We are the ones who stumble in the darkness unless we walk by the light of Christ. We are the ones who need faith to put our lives right. For it was Christ's faith in his Father which enabled him to bring Lazarus back to life. And it was a new-found faith by the subject of our story which brought about a miraculous healing. Faith can do wonders for us too, if we just, to paraphrase John Lennon's song, give faith a chance.
1. Don't Worry, Be Happy, copyright 1995 by Paul Santoro. From Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul, pp. 151 - 153, copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with permission.
(Copyright 2017 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are the resurrection and the life. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us to put our faith in you. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Mary and Martha believed that Christ would help them in their time of need and because of their faith, he raised their brother Lazarus from the dead. With faith that Christ will intercede for us, we bring our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Christ, bring us to life".
That the leaders of the church will be living examples of their faith, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will treat all of those under their care with justice and respect, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the elderly and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find strength in their faith and especially in their belief in the resurrection, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of our parish family will be ministers of healing in their own families, work places and local community, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the corona virus will recover from their affliction, regain their health and return to their families, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, you heard the prayer of your Son and empowered him to restore life to Lazarus. Hear the prayers we bring before you in faith and grant us the grace of your Spirit to be agents of healing in the lives of others. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.