5th Sunday of Lent, Year A
9-12 year olds
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
(full reading: John 11.1-45)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus does the most miraculous--he raises Lazarus from the dead. We know that miracles are signs of what the Kingdom of God is like. In this Gospel passage, Jesus shows us stunningly that our God is the God of Life.
That knowledge is, I think, something we need to rest in every day for a few moments. Take a moment now.
This is one of my favourite Gospel passages for many reasons, but the moment when Martha goes to meet Jesus really stands out for me.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
Even now, she says. Even now, after death has happened and nothing is right, she knows that Jesus is the answer. Martha does not even know what she is asking for. She certainly doesn't know, because later, when Jesus wants to roll the stone away, Martha is concerned--maybe even disgusted--and tries to prevent him,
“Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
Martha does not know the way through this terrible situation, but she does know that Jesus is the one to turn to. She knows that he alone can help although she does not know how.
Does that sound familiar?
Our world is in a terrible state and we do not know the way through.
But we do know that Jesus is the one to turn to.
We know that he alone can help, although we do not know how.
I am also interested in what Martha believes about Jesus. She says,
“Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
The Messiah. We hear that term a lot. God's anointed one.
The Son of God. That's a familiar title. We use it when we make the sign of the cross.
But, "the one coming into the world"--? That is not a name or a phrase that we often hear or use.
Coming into the world. It's an odd way to say something, isn't it? Not "already here", not "to come someday", but in the process of coming.
I wonder if this coming-but-not-fully-here is part of the reason why Jesus is
greatly disturbed in spirit
He will raise this man from the dead, but what about all the other people who will die?
He will unbind this man from the cloths that prevent him from living life fully, but what about people bound by fear? People bound by loneliness? People bound by sorrow? People bound by sin?
What about us?
In some ways, with all of us confined to our homes, we are all bound now.
He is the one coming into the world, Martha says. So how do we get him fully here?
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
This is the work he gives to the people around Lazarus. This is the work, I think, that he gives to us.
There will come a day when we will all be free to leave our homes, to go to school, to play our sports and dance and hug each other. But, in the meantime, can we unbind the people around us?
Is there someone confined with us who is afraid? Can we banish that fear with a smile, with a kind word, with our company? Are there people nearby who might be lonely? Can we free people from loneliness by sharing a phone call or FaceTime or placing a note in a sealed baggy inside a mailbox?
What about sin? Usually, we can go to the sacrament of Reconciliation to be unbound from our sin. Right now, we cannot. But we can pray and we know that God hears and forgives.
Can we experience that sacrament any other way? Or, can we be that sacrament for someone else? Jesus says "unbind" to us. At our baptism, we are anointed with the oil of Chrism--the Christ oil, the Messiah oil--and these words are said,
He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation, so that you may remain as a member of Christ, Priest, Prophet and King, unto eternal life.
I wonder if now is the time for us to be priest to each other. Is there someone with you right now in this isolation who needs to hear the words, "I forgive you. You are forgiven."? Can we do this for each other?
And if we do, will we be helping Jesus to come into the world?