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March 17th, 2002
Catholic Homilies
March 17th, 2002

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5th Sunday of Lent John 11:1-45


This story of the raising of Lazarus is unique to John's gospel and comes just prior to Jesus' Palm Sunday entrance to Jerusalem. John uses this story, which probably has some roots in the collections of stories about Jesus, to show that Jesus is the Messiah. This event is the prelude to Jesus' own death and resurrection.. The story is filled with significant occurrences. Jesus does not rush to Judea to keep Lazarus from dying. Rather, Lazarus must die so Jesus can show his mastery over death. The disciples are fearful of what will happen to Jesus if he returns to Judea where the authorities are upset with him. When this doesn't trouble Jesus, Thomas encourages the other to go with Jesus in spite of the consequences, a model of discipleship. Many Jewish people are in Bethany when Jesus arrives, so there will be witnesses to this miracle. Jesus' response to Martha's belief in resurrection on the last day gives John the opportunity to have her acknowledge that Jesus is the Mesisah. Lazarus is not merely sleeping, he has been dead four days and there will be a great stench if they open the tomb. As of result of Lazarus exit from the tomb, many of the Jews believed in Jesus. John presents this as the final insult to the religious leaders which leads them to plot to put Jesus to death.

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I like to think of Lazarus (who was obviously the kid brother) after Jesus left and even after he went back to the father in heaven. Lazarus was very proud of the fact that he came back from the dead and talked about it to everyone who would listen. He would describe in minute detail hearing the voice of Jesus saying Lazarus come forth and Martha complaining about how he would smell and the unwinding of the clothes and the cheers from the crowd when he came out of the tomb. Understandably Lazarus thought he was the center of the story. His sisters on the other hand that Jesus was the center of the story (and they after him) and that Lazarus was nothing but the corpse who happened to be available. Sometimes they had really big fights about it. Lazarus was accused of being stuck up and the sister of being vain. Then one day after he rose from the dead, Jesus came to visit them. (Does anyone think that, just because the scripture doesn't mention such a visit it didn't happen? Gimme a break!) I want you guys to stop fighting like this, he warned them. You have missed the point, just like most people miss the point of what I do, but there's less excuse for you. Oh, they said, well what was the point? Jesus sighed. What do you think the point was? Mary, who was the quickest of the three, said well you loved all of us so much that you didn't want our family to break up while we were so kids. So you brought Lazarus back to us because of love. That's why you cried.

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