Sunday, April 2, 2017

Today's readings and reflection

FIRST READING (Ezekiel 37:12-14)
Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”    

SECOND READING (Romans 8:8-11)
Brethren: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if  the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  
But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.  
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.  

GOSPEL (John 11:1-45) 
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.” 

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” 

The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.” 

The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 

Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 

Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 

Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. 

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” 

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. 

And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.” 

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him.

Jesus - the Resurrection and the Life - Servants of the Word  

"Loose him and let him go . . ." - Spurgeon preaching in 1872 

FURTHERMORE . . . (by Fr Robin Gibbons)
Though our society prides itself of being 'real', liking to discover things, pushing known boundaries to new frontiers, we still cannot deal with physical death. That is one place we hesitate to go to, even though we pretend we can cope. I'm reminded of this so often in my ministry, whether formal or informal, for death stalks us each day.

Amongst the communities I deal with a number of young men have died tragically over the past two years, the most recent two weeks ago. It is painful to see the numbing experience of the young grappling with the emptiness of a space no longer filled, of a friendship no longer there. I say little these days, except to smile, and listen, and say as I often do, 'go very gently with yourself', for they are fragile persons with a whole known world cut away. Multiply that many times in the lives of so many and you can see the need for some way to bring a message of hope.

So this Gospel about Lazarus is timely for us; here the Lord Jesus does not pretend or shy away from the reality of death. We know so little about Lazarus, except he was a friend and Jesus loved him. The two sisters seem passively aggressive in their way for they, as we do in grief, lay a blame on somebody blameless, 'If YOU had been here, he wouldn't have died'. Doesn't that form of words echo so many wretched cruelties we afflict on nearest and dearest in the rawness of our own grief? For our grief can be utterly selfish, utterly cruel, if we do not sometimes check it with loving compassion! Even the disciples fail to understand what this death is all about, the world of John's Gospel is a world of symbols and dreams of the utterances of God, who shouts at us through events and encounters rather than in reasoned arguments. Here in the Lazarus story we have not so much a tale as a pointer to our own death and its real meaning.

Lazarus is a short form of Eleazar, meaning God helps! The place Bethany means 'House of affliction', the two are very clearly put together and shine on what Jesus is doing. He helps those in affliction, those whom he loves, like Lazarus. We also are Lazarus - death cannot be hidden and here John almost throws its rawness, grief, loss, disturbance, decay, tomb all in our faces!

That's death, but it's not all. For Lazarus is us, all of us loved by God. Here death is defeated and it will be totally through the hastening death of Jesus, who with grave clothes dropping off him, rises from the tomb in new life. This is Jesus who is the Life of the world. But he is also the Word, for as to Lazarus, so he will call us from our physical death. "Come out', he will shout, and with the trappings of death falling away, we too will walk into Life.

PRAYER  (From the ICEL proposed Missal of 1998)
Merciful God,
you showed your glory to our fallen race
by sending your Son
to confound the powers of death.
Call us forth from sin’s dark tomb.
Break the bonds which hold us,
that we may believe and proclaim Christ,
the cause of our freedom
and the source of life,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
holy and mighty God for ever and ever. Amen.


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