5th Sunday of Lent - 29th March 2020

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalm – Psalm 130:1-8
Reading 2 – Romans 8:8-11
Gospel – John 11:1-45


As we participate in this Eucharist in this difficult and anxious time for us all, we are so conscious of the fragility of human life, of how vulnerable we are in the face of this virus. 

We are all being asked to both individually and as a community, to address this together, but for us here this morning, it’s at a human level as well. It is also to recognize how precious our faith is at this time. One of the first elements of our gospel that strikes us today is how affected Jesus was on hearing about the death of Lazarus his friend, especially when Martha and Mary meet him. He is deeply distressed. We see the human side of Jesus. On the other hand, it reveals a God who has come into our world to share with us in all that is human, including suffering and death. For us, it is not only about the Lord sharing with Martha and Mary in their grief. It reveals the reality of God, who shares with us now in our suffering and pain at this time of the Pandemic. Our God is not distant from us but is one, who in Jesus, accompanies us with his Life-giving presence. How important to hold this image of God close to our hearts at this time.

We also see both Martha and Mary sharing their regret that Jesus didn't come on time to cure Lazarus. They believe that he could have cured him but now it is not possible that anything can be done. It is too late. He is dead. Jesus is well aware of what is taking place in their hearts and who their faith is still falling short of what he is asking of them. However, Jesus is seeking to lead them into a deeper truth about who he is and what he can be for them and for us. Jesus responds to Martha's words by announcing to her "l am the resurrection and the life". Then in front of the Tomb of Lazarus, they witness Jesus praying to the Father aloud for them all to hear and calling out to Lazarus to 'Come out'. Jesus brings him back to this life from the dead. This action by Jesus is a sign that he is the Lord of Life, even in conquering death itself. Shortly after this, he will go to Jerusalem and He will be the One who through his own death will bring forth the gift of a new Life, the gift of eternal life for all, destroying the power of death. 

However, the action of Jesus revealed before all who witnessed it is also a sign that even now is this life, he is the Lord of life. He is the Lord of life for them and also for us. During these difficult days we are invited to appreciate this more and more that we too share even now in this Life of Christ. St Paul reminds us in the second reading that through the gift of the Spirit being given to us, we each share in the Life of Christ. His reassuring love and hope accompany us, no matter what our situation. 

At times like this, we can also be like Lazarus, not so much physically dead but emotionally and spiritually dead. We can feel locked up inside ourselves with our fears and anxieties. It can be like a death and especially at this time. But, Jesus speaks our names and calls us— "Come out". He calls us forth from our fears and all that weight us down in life. We are invited today to trust in the One who is here to be a Life-giving presence for us now, today, especially in this time of the pandemic. In the midst of it all an opportunity is given to us to come close to the Lord of Life, who shares in our struggles and uncertainties. He calls us to be in communion with him, to be drawn even more into this Life given relationship. These days of Lock Down and Social Distancing and within our own homes and times of solitude, there are opportunities to pray, to reflect on the Scriptures and other Spiritual writings deepening our relationship with the Lord who seeks to be Life for us. 

Just as Jesus in the Gospel reaches out, pleading to his Father, that through him Lazarus would be brought to life now. So too we are at this time, with the Spirit of Jesus living in us, are called to pray for our world that is in pain, for healing, for freedom from this virus. It is to experience that sense of solidarity with all our brothers and sisters who are in need. We are also called forth by the Lord and with his life-giving presence alive in us to also be signs of life for others, offering them hope and to find ways to care for and to support each other. Yes, while we are only too well aware of the signs of sickness and death that are affecting us, we, because of our faith in Christ, can be a life-giving presence for others by revealing such signs as thoughtfulness, kind-heartedness and generosity especially in the midst of the Social distancing that we are now experiencing. We can be and are called to be in this moment, signs of life and hope for others. 

It is to make the most of this moment as difficult and all as it is. It is to know more and more deeply the closeness of the Lord with us and to allow his life giving presence to accompanying us in the responsibilities we all share within family and for the benefit of many others around us.

Fr Martin Ashe

Christ the Light Parish