Fifth Sunday of Lent 2020 - St John's Cathedral

There are three aspects in today’s Gospel that are striking.

First, we can notice how calm Jesus remained in the face of distressing news. On hearing that Lazarus was sick and dying, Jesus waited two days before deciding to go and then it took four days before he reached Bethany. We can understand why he got a good giving out to from Mary, Martha, the Jews: “If you had been here….; you could have stopped him dying…” 

Jesus had his time and went on to perform a miracle. So often we want God to fit into our time schedule, our needs. But the reality he knows what’s best for us and when.

A second aspect that really strikes us in this Gospel that we are told that Jesus wept. It’s the only time in the Gospel we are told he cried. He loves with a human heart. He feels deeply. He enters right into the mourning of those who have lost their brother and he a friend. Jesus shows us our God is not a distant, cold God. Rather he is close. He knows our pain. He shares it.

The human heart of compassion is still beating in Jesus. We are living through a time of great pain because of Covid-19. We need to know God is not far away and that he hears us, knows our fears, is weeping with those now weeping, mourning and with those working flat out for others. We don’t know if Peter was with Jesus that day in Bethany but if not he surely heard about it. Peter came to know Jesus so deeply that years later, based on his own deep experience, he would give important advice to the First Christians: “cast all your anxieties onto the Lord, for he cares about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

The third aspect is, of course, the powerful words spoken by Jesus to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come out!” and to those nearby: “free him and let him go”. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He came to give us life and free us. He wants us to recognise that he is with us as the One who is offering us life, taking out of us the heart of stone and putting a heart of flesh into us.

On Friday last we saw Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square as he blessed the sick and suffering of this world. The Pope reminded us that, as he put it, “in the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side.”

Jesus is risen and is living by our side. He is risen offering life. It’s what Lazarus experienced in a dramatic way. But each of us can too. We are going through a time when, as Pope Francis put it on Friday, “thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities” taking “over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by”. Each of us needs to hear Jesus says: “Lazarus, Come out!” in our lives. To each of us we need to hear him say: “Come out of your fears, come out of the sense of being paralysed, come out of the tendency to close in on yourself”.

Yes, Jesus wants to give us his Spirit that is life-giving, his Spirit that is love, the love that hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things, the love that enables us to live in our thoughts and our words and actions not for ourselves, but for others.