From: Abbot Richard Purcell OCSO
Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, Ireland.
Gospel: John 11:1-45
Called and set free to live
The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead in this week’s Gospel is one of the most dramatic of all Jesus’ miracles. It confirms for us that nothing is impossible for God, not even raising someone from the dead. There are two important messages for us in this story.
The first aspect that is worth reflecting on is the difference between the attitude of Martha and Mary to the death of Lazarus and the attitude of Jesus. When Jesus meets Martha, and later on when he meets Mary, they both say the same thing to him ‘If you had been here my brother would not have died’. They feel that Jesus could have prevented the death of their brother, but now that he is dead it is too late, nothing can be done, at least not until the resurrection on the last day. For them the death of Lazarus is final. They consider death as the opposite of life.
Jesus on the other hand is not so concerned with physical life. He says he is the ‘resurrection and the life’. What is important is life – ‘even though someone dies they will live’. In chapter 10 of St John’s Gospel Jesus says ‘I have come so that they may have life’. But life for Jesus does not end with dead, rather ‘whoever lives and believes’ will never die.
It is worth asking ourselves do we really live in Jesus and share his life? Because if we do then ‘dying’ to other things and even death itself will not be an end.
The other point to note is the actual raising of Lazarus. It starts with the stone being taken away from the tomb. Then Jesus gives thanks to his Father and calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Lazarus emerges with his hands and feet bound and a cloth around his face and Jesus says ‘Unbind him, let him go free’.
The resurrection or ‘restoring of life’ to Lazarus is symbolic of the life that Jesus offers to everyone – obstacles are removed and we are called, and the things that hinder us and bind our hands and feet are removed and we are set free.
Jesus calls all of us to share in his life. Living in Jesus means being set free from the things that prevent us from living life to the full. We might not be physically dead, but maybe there are parts of our lives that have died and need to be set free by Jesus – he calls all of us just as he called Lazarus. He calls us and sets us free and gives us his life.
Fr Richard Purcell ocso
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First Passion Sunday
During these last two weeks of Lent, leading up to Easter, the Church is at pains to make us relive with her the events which went before and surrounded our Saviour’s death.
Passiontide by its close connection with Eastertide even now sets before us our redemption in the Blood of Jesus. Before applying to our souls the fruits of grace in the celebration of our Saviour’s resurrection, she desires to make us follow Him step by step in the dire struggle He underwent in order to redeem us.
Thus the long retreat of Lent draws to a close as we contemplate the unique contest which alone could wrest man from sin and earn salvation for him. It is essential that we remember this and it is a great source of consolation for us. Our effort and self-correction and reparation is not thereby rendered useless, but it is only effective and of value in union with the passion of Him who took upon Himself the sins of the world and expiated them all. Through that mysterious solidarity, which exists between all members of the human family, Jesus, the Son of God made man, takes the place of His guilty brethren. “He was made for us” says St. Paul, “so as to bear our sins in His body on a tree.”But Christ was victorious in the very act of His self-sacrifice. He triumphs over evil and over satan; He re-establishes God’s rights over the world and the devil – “the prince of this world”, is cast out. David’s prophecy is fulfilled.
Right at the threshold of these two important weeks, all the thoughts of the Church are turned to Christ. She continues to offer to God the Lenten penance of her faithful members, but her full attention is concentrated on Our Lord’s passion, whence our salvation is derived.
Judge me, O God and distinguish my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art my God and my strength. Ps. Send out Thy light and Thy truth; they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, even into Thy tabernacles, – Judge me.
Epistle: Hebrews 9. 11-15 Gospel: John 8. 46-59
Be present with us, Lord our God, and defend with Your unfailing help those whom Your mysteries have refreshed. Through Our Lord.