HOMILY – 5th Sunday of Lent A
March 29, 2020

Like so many of the gospel stories that have been proclaimed during the past few Sundays of Lent, today’s gospel about the raising of Lazarus from the dead is less about him but rather a sign of something much more.

Lazarus’ experience points the way to the life that Jesus will give to all who believe in him once he is raised from the dead.  Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we are given in the same promise of life and peace.

That’s the ultimate message of today’s gospel – but as is always the case with the Word of God, there is a powerful lesson for us today – particularly as we continue to battle a global health crisis.

And the lesson begins with Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary – and more particularly with Martha.  …  Now we know Martha from other passages in the gospel.  She fussed a bit when Jesus visited her home and she had to do all the work while Mary sat and listened to Jesus.  …  She’s the one in the family who doesn’t mince words and gets right to the point.  We all have those.  …  I think it could be me in my family!

And she does so again in today’s gospel.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  …  “What took you so long!”

I wouldn’t be surprised if those words were in the prayers that many of us have uttered these last few weeks.  …  “We keep turning to you Lord.  It would be nice if you’d show up when we need you the most.”  …  “Can’t you fix this mess that we’re in?  If you were here, we’d be OK!”

Which brings us to the lesson that Jesus teaches us from today’s gospel.  Jesus was woven into that story from start to finish.  Martha and Mary just wanted the story to unfold on their terms.  Jesus saw things in a different way.

For Jesus, what was always of greatest importance was the deepening of faith on the part of his followers.  …  Jesus performed numerous miracles in his ministry – from feeding thousands with just a few loaves and fist – to restoring sight to the blind man in last week’s gospel – to raising Lazarus from the dead.

His greatest miracles, however, were found in hearts that were changed and turned to the Lord  …  hearts that were softened and that had become selfless in their love, compassion and care  …  hearts that began to reflect the loving, sacred heart of Jesus.

So when Jesus finally engaged the dead Lazarus and brought him back to life, do you recall how he chose to unfold that miracle?  He could’ve done it in an instant – in the twinkling of an eye.  But he didn’t.

First, Jesus waited for Martha and Mary to engage him.  He waited for their faith to prompt them to turn to him because they finally had nowhere else to turn.

When he arrived at the home of Martha and Mary, he asked them to take him to the place where Lazarus was buried.

At the tomb, he instructed others to roll away the stone covering the entrance.

And once summoned forth from the dead, he bid others to untie the burial wrappings and let Lazarus go free.

Jesus could have dispensed from all of these efforts and simply placed the risen Lazarus in the midst of his family – but he didn’t .  …  Instead – he engaged the community of believers to be his hands and heart.

Jesus worked a miracle – but chose to engage his followers in the sacred work of God.  …  And that’s how God has continually made his presence felt in our world and in our lives – even and particularly at this desperate moment in our history.

He gives life through us in these lonely moments when we visit the homes of those who are confined by infirmity and age.

He gives life through us when we care for one another as brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences.

He gives life through countless numbers of selfless health care workers and first responders who are serving those most burdened by the ravages of this virus, thinking more of their struggles than their own comfort and well-being.

Brothers and sisters, while our world seems to have been overtaken by darkness and death, life and goodness abound.  The risen Jesus is in our midst, working miracles through so many of us who are willing to be his selfless, loving, forgiving presence.

In a time when so much seems to have been taken from us – the freedom to come and go as we please – the ability to gather in our churches to celebrate the Eucharist – the opportunity to simply embrace with a hug somebody we love – may we realize what we still have – and always will, through faith:  God  …  who is very much alive and present in our midst, continually working miracles, especially through the lives of people of faith and good will.