DDCC

Lenten Reflections 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Background

The raising to life of Lazarus was not resurrection, because he would die again. It was however a death leading to resurrection because it led to the death of Jesus-a sad commentary on what human conviction can lead to. If Lazarus had to die again, what was the point of raising him?  John answers that it was a sign, as he had said about the miracle of the wine at Cana: "so that they may believe it was you who sent me" and a sign that in Jesus we have eternal life. For Jesus what mattered was seeing the glory of God. The raising of Lazarus will reveal the mystery of God, who wants men and women to have life and be free. "Unbind him; let him go free" When we allow our sight to be obscured by suspicion, mistrust, doubt, it is as if we put on dark glasses and no longer see the light. Faith breaks away the veil.

Faith in the resurrection was affirmed clearly amongst the Jews only two centuries before Christ. At the time of Jesus not everyone accepted it.  Martha accepted it but only as I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus corrects her: I am the resurrection and the life. .  . whoever lives and believes in me will never die. God created Adam to live and be happy on earth with God. In the Bible then death means alienation from God. Death, in this sense of separation from God, has been overcome. His promise to Adam: fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion is accomplished in mankind being set free: for nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. Mary greets Jesus as 'Lord' unlike Martha and at his feet. Jesus shows genuine emotion. Is it compassion, or is he disappointed as well that Mary is so swallowed up in the emotion surrounding the death of her brother that not even she shows confidence in what he can do for Lazarus? John uses a different word in Greek for Jesus' 'weeping' than he uses for the weeping of the 'Jews' and Mary. The people round the tomb have not accepted who Jesus is, so he prays to the Father for them more than about Lazarus, so that they may come to faith. Some believe; some just report the miracle.

 

Thoughts on the Gospel

What have we done wrong?  What are we doing wrong?  In fact what did Jesus do wrong?  Why did he not get his message through?  This is the incredible and maybe frustrating reality that we have lived in for nearly two thousand years and continue to live in today.  There is one single road to definite happiness and peace and joy for ever and yet so often so many are reluctant to take that single road.  Why is that? 

You see if somebody met you today or met me today and said I have the key to guaranteed happiness there is very few of us if we believed that person wouldn't do everything possible to get that key.  We want to be happy.  In truth we want to be happy immediately.  We want to be happy now.  We don't really every want anything to upset our happiness.  I suppose in truth what upsets our happiness most of all is death.  So often we desire at one level to live in this world for ever and we desire to have those we love live in this world for ever too.  We are familiar with this world and we are familiar with the people around us and for the most part we do not any of that to change.  The change that death brings is our greatest nightmare. 

This I think is the reason why it is so difficult for many to accept the key of eternal happiness that Jesus has to give us.  The key to happiness that Jesus has is a key that unlocks an eternal picture that includes this life but also includes death.  Jesus never pretended to be able to give us absolute happiness in the confines of this world.  However this world has to be an integral part of our happiness but it can never be the ultimate source or destination for our happiness.

 

This is the gift but also the challenge of the road that Jesus invites us to follow.  If we are to follow that road we are called to choose life and eternal life every day.  We make that choice by the decisions that we make every day.  The decisions that we make every day are to be the decisions that Jesus makes.  Jesus tells us so clearly in the gospel today

 

            If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,

            and whoever lives and believes in me

            will never die.

 

You see Jesus has conquered death.  That means that the obvious separation that death should bring doesn't happen if we die in Christ.  That is the key to real happiness.  By raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus revealed for all time that death would not have the last say.  He revealed that not even death could deny us the happiness that Jesus wants to give us. 

If we really believe this we will not have to wait until we die to experience Jesus' happiness.  We will taste it even when we are living here on earth and that happiness will give us a peace and a confidence even in times of terrible suffering and pain.  It will give us a comforting and compassionate context to deal with the death of a loved one.  For Christians death is not the end.  It is the beginning of a new chapter of life - life in Jesus.  This story of happiness in Jesus is the story of eternal life.  It is the Holy Week story.  It is the Easter story.  It is our story and it begins with Baptism.  It is Good News.  It is our news. 

It is when we embrace the reality of eternal life then that happiness in this life can be a reality and like Lazarus we can be unbound and live with freedom here and now.


 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Background:  'In ancient theatre no more than two active characters should appear on stage at any one time, and scenes were often divided by this rule'.   On this basis there are eight scenes in today's gospel drama:                                                    

   i) Jesus and the disciples;  ii) Jesus and the man born blind;  iii) The blind man and his neighbours;  iv) The blind man and the Pharisees;  v) The Pharisees and the blind man's parents;  vi) The Pharisees and the blind man;  vii) Jesus and the blind man again;       viii) Jesus and the Pharisees.   The description of the opponents of Jesus as 'Jews' and 'Pharisees' reminds us that the author was reading back into the story of Jesus the experience of early Christians brought before the bet din (religious courts) in Jamnia and the animosity generated by the decision to expel them from the synagogue. Only a tiny fraction of 'the Jews' could have been involved in arguing about the blind man, obviously.

Jesus rejects the age-old Jewish belief that illness or handicap was punishment for sin.  In giving us the meaning of 'Siloam' as 'sent', John hints at the questions: 'Has Jesus been sent?  By the Father? These are the questions the people and the authorities are asking about him. It is Sabbath, when no one can work, when Jesus makes paste and puts it on the man's eyes. Is this work?  His gesture reminds us of God making man from the dust of the earth. The blind man washes at the pool, reminding us of Baptism.

In Scene vii) (above)  Jesus opens the blind man to another light, that of faith. God also had performed two actions at creation: he had modelled the creatures and then breathed into man the breath of life. God creates, and then shares his life. But that can only come about in and through Jesus Christ. When Moses was being sent back to persuade his people out of Egypt he refused to go, saying: "I have never been eloquent. . . I am slow of speech and slow of tongue", God told him: "Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" [Exodus 4:10-11]  Jesus has proved he has the power of God; he is the light that 'illumines everyone coming into the world'. 'The works of God are displayed in this man'.

The 'Jews', as followers of Moses, will not be moved. They know that God had spoken through Moses, but they do not know 'where Jesus comes from'. The blind man points out that there must be some connection between Jesus' origin and the healing he has just accomplished, but the 'Jews' can only see what Moses brought. Sadly, they suffer from a sort of 'tunnel vision'.

Thoughts on the Gospel

            I once was lost, but now am found,
            was blind, but now I see.

These are the words of John Newton in the well known hymn 'Amazing Grace'.  John Newton wrote this hymn about his own experience in life.  He was a sailor and captain of a slave ship.  During a particularly severe storm at sea he was converted and realised the error of his ways dealing in slaves.  He changed the course of his life and became a Methodist minister.  How did his conversion happen?  I suppose in the same way as they all do.  He began to see with the eyes of faith.  He began to see the face of Christ.

John Newton began to see the face of Christ in the suffering faces of the slaves that he used to maltreat and sell.  In the gospel today the man who begged for a living received the gift of sight and he too began to see the face of Christ.

 In receiving his sight he received a new vision in his life and that vision was centred on Jesus Christ.  Perhaps this is what it means to have faith.  It is to be able to see the face of Jesus Christ in every person in the world.  This is the challenge of our faith. 

In one way it is easy to come to Mass every Sunday.  It is an awful lot more difficult to live what we celebrate at Mass during the week. We are called to see Christ's face in everybody and we acknowledge this through the sign of peace at Mass.

Precisely because it is so difficult to always see the face of Christ in others we need to see the face of Christ in the Eucharist and be nourished by the bread of life regularly. 

John Newton, for many years sold the weak, the poor, and the unskilled as slaves.  In his hymn he tells us he was a wretch, but God saved him.  He tells us he was lost but God found him.  He tells us he was blind but God in his amazing grace enabled him to see. 

John Newton, like the man in the gospel today received the eyes of faith and saw the face of Christ.  In this season of Lent God is offering us the same gift.  He is offering us the ability to see the face of Christ in all our sisters and brothers in humanity.  The question is have we the courage the see in this new way - because if we do it will change our lives. 


 

 

 

Third Sunday of Lent

Background

Background:  The Middle East is always short of water. There are few year-round streams. Underground water from wells, called 'springs of living water', was so important that settlement took place near them. When methods of plastering were discovered round 1550 BC it became possible to construct large underground cisterns and waterproof them to store rain water.     [70% of rain falls between November and February]. In seasons of irregular rainfall life can be difficult.  It was woman's work to bring home water from the source. Romances, like that of Jacob and Rachel, began at wells, one of the 'neutral' places where men (watering animals) and women could meet.

Jew/ Samaritan: The hostility between Jew and Samaritan dated back to the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 BC, when Judaea was spared. The conqueror deported the people of Samaria and replaced them with conquered peoples from elsewhere. To the Chosen People these incomers were pagans whom they regarded with great mistrust. The Samaritans did worship God on Mount Gerizim. There are still some Samaritans in Palestine.                                                                                                                                       

Jesus has left Judea where the Pharisees have begun to keep an eye on him. It is about midday, John tells us. The woman is astounded that a Jew should speak to her first, and that he should ask her for something. The Samaritans, though regarded as heretics by the Pharisees, were also awaiting the coming of the Messiah.  The woman has agreed to enter into conversation with this Jew, and because she asks in good faith for an explanation of what is necessary to please God, Jesus allows her to discover that he is the Messiah, that the face of the world has changed. The episode is beautifully put together. The woman is a real character, intelligent, shrewd, quick to change the subject when under pressure but, dazzled by his awareness of her private life, not afraid of the truth.

Thoughts on the Gospel

The state of the world is a topic of much debate. Is it worse now that it was before? It is very hard to compare any time in history with another time.  However we can state with absolute surety that no time in the history of humanity was without its problems and difficulties.

The beautiful encounter in the gospel today is an encounter between Jesus and a woman who had many problems and difficulties.  This woman was a Samaritan and therefore an outcast.  The Samaritans were looked down on in the society of that time.  She had a complicated life story.  She was with what was at least her sixth man. Jesus knew all this about her and he still chose to sit with her - to ask her for water - to talk to her - to give her the key to lasting happiness.  In the society at the time what Jesus did was shocking.  Even the Samaritan woman herself was shocked at Jesus for asking her for water.

Often in the story of Jesus Christ he shocks the people with him.  He shocks them when they see who he associates with and who he reaches out to with the Good News of healing and peace.  Jesus always connected with the poor, with the weak, with those who were struggling.  He gave them hope. 

The Church, which is the Body of Christ, which is us and our leaders - we in our day - in our time in history are being called to do the exact same as what Jesus did.  We are being called to associate - to connect with the poor - the rejected - with those who are struggling.

The Church is called to be the home of sinners who desire to be saints.  Too often there is an impression that the Church is only for the perfect - that Holy Communion is a reward for a life well lived.  If we have problems or difficulties in our lives we try to hide them from God, we try to hide them from Jesus, and we try to hide them from the Church.  If people make wrong decisions in their lives too often they disconnect themselves from the Church.  They don't think that the Church wants them any more.  They don't think that there is a home for them in the Body of Christ any more.  Nothing should be further from the truth. 

Jesus was born into this world.  Jesus lived the life that he did.  He died the death that he did and he rose from the dead because he knows that we are sinners.  He knows that we need him.  He loves us no matter what.  Jesus wants to be in the middle of our messy lives.  From there - from his encounter with us he offers us just like he offered the Samaritan woman - living water.    We all thirst for living water.  We all thirst for the answers to life's questions.  We all thirst for happiness, for peace, for contentment.  The truth is that it can only be found in the living water that Jesus offers us.  It can be found nowhere else. 

It was to be found in an encounter with Jesus Christ.  That encounter with Jesus doesn't simply bless the situation of our lives as it is but Jesus in the encounter calls us to change our lives - to drink the living water of faith and love that he gives us. 

In our lives it is only when we have a living active and loving relationship with Jesus Christ in the Church that we will be able to taste living water that will bring us hope today and the gift of eternal life.


Second Sunday of Lent

Background

The Second Sunday of Lent brings us the Transfiguration. If we treat it as strictly factual we miss the rich symbolism of the episode. In describing it as a 'vision', Matthew helps us to view it in the context of Old Testament revelation. The Transfiguration can be viewed as the other side of the predictions of the Passion to come and of the call to follow Christ in his sufferings. It reminds us of the glory of the resurrection.

Jesus took Peter, James and John reminds us of the mystery of the people whom God chooses. Peter has just been told that he is the rock on which I will build my Church, but Jesus takes James and John along too. He takes them up a high mountain, the place of revelation. On the mountain, Moses, the lawgiver, received the revelation of the God of the Covenant and the tables of the Law, which would help the people of the Covenant to live in his love. On the mountain, Elijah, the great prophet, discovered God in the gentle breeze as God of tenderness and calm. In that company, we are reminded, Jesus is lawgiver of the new covenant, fulfilling prophecy.

As at Jesus' baptism, this God of tenderness speaks: "This is my beloved Son; with Him I am well pleased", which is referred to later in the New Testament: "We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain" [2 Peter 1:18]. My beloved Son designates Jesus as the Messiah, a title given to the king, and it was as a king descended from David that the Messiah was expected to come, as Isaiah indicates [42:1].  Listen to him would have reminded those familiar with Sacred Scripture of the words of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy: "The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people: you shall heed such a prophet" [18:15]. The bright cloud in the Old Testament was a vehicle of revelation, indicating the presence of God, since no one could see the face of God and live.  It is no surprise that, faced with the presence of the Almighty, the apostles are seized with fear. When Isaiah heard: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord" he could only respond: "Woe is me! I am lost . . . for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" [3:5]. As so often, Jesus eases fear and reassures by touch. Then he asks them not to divulge what they have seen, because people will not be able to take it in until they have experienced Jesus risen from the dead. In this way Jesus confirms that he is the promised Messiah.

 

Thoughts on the Gospel

 

But don't be surprised by pain.  Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little  flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert.

 

These are the words of the late Fr Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest and spiritual writer.  It isn't the way that we often look at life -Our approach to life can be so different to this.  Joy we can perceive as a right.  Pain we can perceive as an intruder.  With this approach the pain shocks us and the joy is taken for granted.  This can make life very difficult. If we see joy as our right it will never surprise us.  The world and all its beauty will never stop us in our tracks.  The power of God working through human beings will not be remarkable.  All of this will be seen as normal and anything less will be seen as a disappointment.  In other words many of us expect to live our image of heaven while we are here on earth.  Perhaps we have an attitude that heaven is our right now.  If that is our attitude then we will not be surprised by the glimpses of heaven that we do get here on earth.  We need those glimpses of heaven and we need to be surprised by the joy of them to give us the energy, the nourishment, the courage and the faithfulness we need as we journey though this life.

Jesus was acutely aware of this in the gospel today.  He realised that his friends needed to get a glimpse of heaven to help them though the pain that they would endure on earth.  He knew that they needed a glimpse of the resurrection before they could endure the crucifixion. The apostles were surprised by the joy of the moment and that is why Peter wanted to stay.  He wanted the moment to last forever.  But through his actions Jesus said not yet.  You have to go down the mountain and live the life before the moment will last for ever.  In other words Jesus was showing his friends that Calvary had to be part of the story.  Calvary had to be part of the journey.  There is no ring road around it.  There is no tunnel under it.  There is no plane to fly over it.  Calvary is an integral part of the journey - the story of any Christian. 

However the reason that we can say this, believe this and live this is because we know that Calvary is not the end.  The story does not end on Calvary if we do not want the story to end on Calvary.  Calvary is but part of the journey to the resurrection.  Calvary is a place that we go through on our way to heaven. 

So maybe we need to change our mindset.  If we do we will have the courage and the confidence to live life to the full, not in spite of any pain or suffering we may experience, but in the midst of this pain and suffering.  When we allow ourselves to be surprised by joy and not pain then we will get glimpses of heaven in the ordinary every day events of our lives.  We will see the power of God in the opening flower.  We will see the tears of God in the one who shows us compassion when we are suffering.  We will see the fun of God in the playful child.  We will see the vulnerability and gentleness of God in the bread of life broken and shared in the Eucharist.  We will see and be surprised by the joy of God in the communion of saints that we all are called to share in today. 

  


 

First Sunday of Lent 

Background

On the First Sunday of Lent each year we hear of the temptations of Jesus. Matthew has told us that the name 'Jesus' itself tells of God saving his people. Jesus has just been baptised. The Spirit of God descended and the voice of Father spoke: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," a public declaration. Matthew has in a few words reminded us about who Jesus is and goes on to ask what that might mean for us. For him the life of Jesus has to be seen in the context of Old Testament promises being fulfilled. A new covenant has been established. What do we have to do to be part of it? Our role is best discovered in hearing and thinking about that of Jesus. Like his people, Jesus has to work out the will of the Father for him.  Moses and Elijah were tested for forty days. Moses received the commandments on the mountain [Exodus 24:15]. Elijah was told there how to renew the covenant [1 Kings 19:11]. As God did with the chosen people centuries before, Jesus is now led into the wilderness-his test will end on a high mountain. Like his people, he will know hunger. Like the people, he has to choose before whom he will prostrate himself, whom he will adore. Jesus is confronted with these choices not just in these three temptations but throughout his life.

 

 

Thoughts on the Gospel

The fight between good and evil has been the subject matter for drama right down through the centuries.  For the most part people always wish that good will win.  More often in today's world in drama but also sadly in reality the evil seems to triumph. People have different opinions about what is good and what is evil.  Many people don't like using the word evil any more.

In the gospel and in the first reading there is the ultimate fight between good and evil.  It is a fascinating struggle.  It is as relevant and real today as it was at the beginning of creation and in the time of Jesus Christ.  The one consistent aspect of the devil or evil is subtlety.  Evil is very subtle.  The devil is very subtle.  If you look at the story of Adam and Eve the serpent did not attack God but subtlety led Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge.  The subtle approach that the serpent used, was that he led Adam and Eve to a point where he convinced them that they didn't need God because they could be gods themselves.  They could be their own masters.  It was a very attractive proposition for them.  He told them that their eyes would be opened and they would be like gods.

           

His subtle approach worked.  They believed that they could be their own gods.  They believed that they did not need God.  The devil - evil won this battle.

In the Gospel the devil was also trying to break the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  He tried to convince Jesus that he could live outside of a relationship with the Father.  He tempted Jesus by trying to lure him into believing that he could be relevant, spectacular and powerful in his own right

 

This sharing in the life of God need not be spectacular in the worldly sense.  For something to be a success in this world we need big crowds, media coverage and plenty of money.  In our celebrity culture there is terrible emphasis placed on the spectacular.  In our spectacular culture success is often defined by public opinion.  Truth becomes subjective.  This is not the road to success but to destruction.  Yet there was nothing spectacular about the origins of our faith, or Jesus Christ, or the unsophisticated fishermen who proclaimed Christ.  Jesus responded to the temptation to be spectacular by saying that we should not test God - by making him prove he loves us by enabling us to do spectacular things.  The way of God is the little way - the narrow way.  It does not require worldly power. Then we may be powerless in this world but powerful as we share the life of God.

 

We win the war against evil in our lives when we know there is one God who is not us and we serve him alone no matter what.

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Background

The raising to life of Lazarus was not resurrection, because he would die again. It was however a death leading to resurrection because it led to the death of Jesus-a sad commentary on what human conviction can lead to. If Lazarus had to die again, what was the point of raising him?  John answers that it was a sign, as he had said about the miracle of the wine at Cana: "so that they may believe it was you who sent me" and a sign that in Jesus we have eternal life. For Jesus what mattered was seeing the glory of God. The raising of Lazarus will reveal the mystery of God, who wants men and women to have life and be free. "Unbind him; let him go free" When we allow our sight to be obscured by suspicion, mistrust, doubt, it is as if we put on dark glasses and no longer see the light. Faith breaks away the veil.

Faith in the resurrection was affirmed clearly amongst the Jews only two centuries before Christ. At the time of Jesus not everyone accepted it.  Martha accepted it but only as I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus corrects her: I am the resurrection and the life. .  . whoever lives and believes in me will never die. God created Adam to live and be happy on earth with God. In the Bible then death means alienation from God. Death, in this sense of separation from God, has been overcome. His promise to Adam: fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion is accomplished in mankind being set free: for nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. Mary greets Jesus as 'Lord' unlike Martha and at his feet. Jesus shows genuine emotion. Is it compassion, or is he disappointed as well that Mary is so swallowed up in the emotion surrounding the death of her brother that not even she shows confidence in what he can do for Lazarus? John uses a different word in Greek for Jesus' 'weeping' than he uses for the weeping of the 'Jews' and Mary. The people round the tomb have not accepted who Jesus is, so he prays to the Father for them more than about Lazarus, so that they may come to faith. Some believe; some just report the miracle.

 

Thoughts on the Gospel

What have we done wrong?  What are we doing wrong?  In fact what did Jesus do wrong?  Why did he not get his message through?  This is the incredible and maybe frustrating reality that we have lived in for nearly two thousand years and continue to live in today.  There is one single road to definite happiness and peace and joy for ever and yet so often so many are reluctant to take that single road.  Why is that? 

You see if somebody met you today or met me today and said I have the key to guaranteed happiness there is very few of us if we believed that person wouldn't do everything possible to get that key.  We want to be happy.  In truth we want to be happy immediately.  We want to be happy now.  We don't really every want anything to upset our happiness.  I suppose in truth what upsets our happiness most of all is death.  So often we desire at one level to live in this world for ever and we desire to have those we love live in this world for ever too.  We are familiar with this world and we are familiar with the people around us and for the most part we do not any of that to change.  The change that death brings is our greatest nightmare. 

This I think is the reason why it is so difficult for many to accept the key of eternal happiness that Jesus has to give us.  The key to happiness that Jesus has is a key that unlocks an eternal picture that includes this life but also includes death.  Jesus never pretended to be able to give us absolute happiness in the confines of this world.  However this world has to be an integral part of our happiness but it can never be the ultimate source or destination for our happiness.

 

This is the gift but also the challenge of the road that Jesus invites us to follow.  If we are to follow that road we are called to choose life and eternal life every day.  We make that choice by the decisions that we make every day.  The decisions that we make every day are to be the decisions that Jesus makes.  Jesus tells us so clearly in the gospel today

 

            If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,

            and whoever lives and believes in me

            will never die.

 

You see Jesus has conquered death.  That means that the obvious separation that death should bring doesn't happen if we die in Christ.  That is the key to real happiness.  By raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus revealed for all time that death would not have the last say.  He revealed that not even death could deny us the happiness that Jesus wants to give us. 

If we really believe this we will not have to wait until we die to experience Jesus' happiness.  We will taste it even when we are living here on earth and that happiness will give us a peace and a confidence even in times of terrible suffering and pain.  It will give us a comforting and compassionate context to deal with the death of a loved one.  For Christians death is not the end.  It is the beginning of a new chapter of life - life in Jesus.  This story of happiness in Jesus is the story of eternal life.  It is the Holy Week story.  It is the Easter story.  It is our story and it begins with Baptism.  It is Good News.  It is our news. 

It is when we embrace the reality of eternal life then that happiness in this life can be a reality and like Lazarus we can be unbound and live with freedom here and now.

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Background

The raising to life of Lazarus was not resurrection, because he would die again. It was however a death leading to resurrection because it led to the death of Jesus-a sad commentary on what human conviction can lead to. If Lazarus had to die again, what was the point of raising him?  John answers that it was a sign, as he had said about the miracle of the wine at Cana: "so that they may believe it was you who sent me" and a sign that in Jesus we have eternal life. For Jesus what mattered was seeing the glory of God. The raising of Lazarus will reveal the mystery of God, who wants men and women to have life and be free. "Unbind him; let him go free" When we allow our sight to be obscured by suspicion, mistrust, doubt, it is as if we put on dark glasses and no longer see the light. Faith breaks away the veil.

Faith in the resurrection was affirmed clearly amongst the Jews only two centuries before Christ. At the time of Jesus not everyone accepted it.  Martha accepted it but only as I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus corrects her: I am the resurrection and the life. .  . whoever lives and believes in me will never die. God created Adam to live and be happy on earth with God. In the Bible then death means alienation from God. Death, in this sense of separation from God, has been overcome. His promise to Adam: fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion is accomplished in mankind being set free: for nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. Mary greets Jesus as 'Lord' unlike Martha and at his feet. Jesus shows genuine emotion. Is it compassion, or is he disappointed as well that Mary is so swallowed up in the emotion surrounding the death of her brother that not even she shows confidence in what he can do for Lazarus? John uses a different word in Greek for Jesus' 'weeping' than he uses for the weeping of the 'Jews' and Mary. The people round the tomb have not accepted who Jesus is, so he prays to the Father for them more than about Lazarus, so that they may come to faith. Some believe; some just report the miracle.

 

Thoughts on the Gospel

What have we done wrong?  What are we doing wrong?  In fact what did Jesus do wrong?  Why did he not get his message through?  This is the incredible and maybe frustrating reality that we have lived in for nearly two thousand years and continue to live in today.  There is one single road to definite happiness and peace and joy for ever and yet so often so many are reluctant to take that single road.  Why is that? 

You see if somebody met you today or met me today and said I have the key to guaranteed happiness there is very few of us if we believed that person wouldn't do everything possible to get that key.  We want to be happy.  In truth we want to be happy immediately.  We want to be happy now.  We don't really every want anything to upset our happiness.  I suppose in truth what upsets our happiness most of all is death.  So often we desire at one level to live in this world for ever and we desire to have those we love live in this world for ever too.  We are familiar with this world and we are familiar with the people around us and for the most part we do not any of that to change.  The change that death brings is our greatest nightmare. 

This I think is the reason why it is so difficult for many to accept the key of eternal happiness that Jesus has to give us.  The key to happiness that Jesus has is a key that unlocks an eternal picture that includes this life but also includes death.  Jesus never pretended to be able to give us absolute happiness in the confines of this world.  However this world has to be an integral part of our happiness but it can never be the ultimate source or destination for our happiness.

 

This is the gift but also the challenge of the road that Jesus invites us to follow.  If we are to follow that road we are called to choose life and eternal life every day.  We make that choice by the decisions that we make every day.  The decisions that we make every day are to be the decisions that Jesus makes.  Jesus tells us so clearly in the gospel today

 

            If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,

            and whoever lives and believes in me

            will never die.

 

You see Jesus has conquered death.  That means that the obvious separation that death should bring doesn't happen if we die in Christ.  That is the key to real happiness.  By raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus revealed for all time that death would not have the last say.  He revealed that not even death could deny us the happiness that Jesus wants to give us. 

If we really believe this we will not have to wait until we die to experience Jesus' happiness.  We will taste it even when we are living here on earth and that happiness will give us a peace and a confidence even in times of terrible suffering and pain.  It will give us a comforting and compassionate context to deal with the death of a loved one.  For Christians death is not the end.  It is the beginning of a new chapter of life - life in Jesus.  This story of happiness in Jesus is the story of eternal life.  It is the Holy Week story.  It is the Easter story.  It is our story and it begins with Baptism.  It is Good News.  It is our news. 

It is when we embrace the reality of eternal life then that happiness in this life can be a reality and like Lazarus we can be unbound and live with freedom here and now.