Tag Archives: Lazarus

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Lazarus Raised from the Dead”

FIFTH SUNDAY LENT: John 11:1-45

“Raising of Lazarus from the Dead”

Today’s Reading is the turning point in John’s Gospel with Martha’s faith declaration of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God who is to come into the world,” which is as profound as that of Peter in Matthew’s Gospel.  It is the confession that the reader of this gospel is to make.  The whole Gospel turns on this declaration by Martha, her proclamation of Jesus as Christ, the Anointed One.  And so should it be our proclamation.  That is why this is the third and last Scrutiny for the RCIA candidates.  Will they be ready to make that declaration at their Baptism on the Easter Vigil Liturgy?  Are we still able to make that declaration ourselves, “You are the Christ,” and even further, “You are my Lord and my Life?

The RCIA Program prepares the candidates for their Baptismal Promises, so our life as Christians prepares us to make that statement every day; definitively on our death beds.

And Lazarus was raised from the dead, and so will we after our death.  But the difference between Jesus and Lazarus is that Lazarus was still wearing his burial clothes!  When Jesus rose from the tomb, he left his burial clothes in the tomb!  Oh, one other small thing, Lazarus would have to die again!

A true Christian looks forward to death, and being resurrected into Eternal Life, not resuscitated.  Why be resuscitated into a life that we would just have to die again, like Lazarus?  Why be resuscitated into a life with all our aches and pains and illnesses and diseases.  No way!  Pull the plugs and let me go!  Many people in our society want to hang on until science finds a way to beat death.  Maybe some want to stay with the devil they know rather than meet the devil they don’t know.

Maybe we should talk about what it might be like after death…let you know your options.  Well, one place is very hot, uncomfortable, to say the least.  In the Gospel of Luke, the rich man went there, while the other poor man named Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham. And when Jesus visited the apostles after his resurrection and appeared to walk through walls and locked doors, he had to prove he was not a ghost or spirit!  He asked them for some fish to clear up that notion.  He met the disciples, after their unsuccessful fishing trip, on the shore with some cooked fish the day after the resurrection.

But the next life is not just the same old, same old, but a new life.  As Saint Paul mentions in his letters, we will be a new creation.  If we had any handicaps…gone!  If we had any addictions…gone!  If we had any bad habits…gone.  Those all need bodies.  We will be ourselves, but not exactly; as Jesus said, we will be like angels.

But will it really matter?  Will we be going home to a place or to a relationship?  In other words, does it really matter where we are, as much as whom we are with?  That is why our confession to Jesus as the Christ, is so important, so that we can build on that confession, to go deeper in our relationship with the Lord and with those we love.

My Mom was very close to the Lord.  One day she was praying her rosary, and in my youthful period of self-centeredness, I asked my Mom out of the blue, “Do you love God more than me?”  She had told me many time of how much she loved the Lord, how much she loved God.  She was quiet for a moment and then deliberately said, “I love God more than you!”  I don’t know why, but it struck me very powerfully.  My mother loves God more than me!  Rather than get angry, I found asking myself, “Who is this God that my mother loves more than me, and why?”

And one day I was blessed with the answer.  Ah!  Now I know why my mother loves God more than me.

Now it is up to you to find the answer for yourself.

But I will tell you point blank, you will not find the answer sitting on your but’s.  You will only find the answer when you pick up the Scriptures and seriously read them and pray them, like Saint Augustine and Saint Ignatius Loyola.

Besides Martha’s faith statement or proclamation of who she believed Jesus was, she also believed that “…whatever you ask God, God would give you.”  That is a faith statement in itself!

In the Eucharist we are also given this chance to ask God, through Jesus Christ, to ask of him whatever we want…within reason.  Hopefully we will ask God to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord in this life, so we never have to worry about where we are going in the next life, but who we will meet!

 

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Lazarus and the Rich Man”

26TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME

Lazarus and the Rich Man

Luke 16:19-31

The first reading is from the prophet Amos.  He lived in the Southern Kingdom, in the hills of Tekoa, a fortified village in the north part, southeast of Jerusalem, close to the border with the northern kingdom.  He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.  The sheep he raised produced a kind of wool that was well sought after for its fine quality, like cashmere.  Amos was not a poor man.

He was the first of the prophets to have his prophesies written down in book form.  The thing that makes Amos stand out is that he lived in the southern kingdom but prophesied in the northern kingdom.  That is like someone coming from Europe and preaching to us Americans.  After having toured the city of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, Amos saw for himself the immense difference between the rich and the poor.  Amos’ prophesy didn’t make sense, since he prophesied destruction of the northern kingdom, but the northern kingdom was at its peak in prosperity and its relationship with its neighbors were good.  Anyhow, Amos prophesied military invasion and total doom.  He felt certain this was now the calm before the storm.

What was the response from the people?  They were confused.  These were good times, but for the rich.  The leaders essentially told Amos to go home, go back to your own country and prophesy there, leave us alone.  Amos justifies himself by telling them that the Lord God commanded him to preach to the north and warn them that the corruption of the rich will be punished in time, especially their social injustice, and they themselves would be led off in chains to doom!  Amos fulfilled his duty as prophet; he delivered his message, and returned home.

What was that all about?  The rich in the northern kingdom were few and the poor were many, in fact, most of the population were poor.  Social injustice was rampant.  The irony of it all is that archaeology has shown that in the large cities of the land of Canaan, before the Israelites arrived, had gone through full blown rebellions that essentially overturned and destroyed the rich class.  Israel came upon the aftermath of a population that had spread out over the land with a different society.

Israel entered the land with united tribes, worshiping one God and with strong leaders and comprehensive laws.  By the time of Amos, though, it seemed that Israel was just like the people they had replaced, the Canaanites.  The Chosen People at the time of Amos had made no difference in the long run, and were probably worse than the people they replaced.

Today’s story of the Rich Man and Lazarus hints at the same situation in Jesus’ time.  The rich were so comfortable that they don’t even see the destitute in the land, people like Lazarus sitting on their door steps, laying at their feet.

How can we apply today’s Gospel and the situation in Amos’ time to us?  Well we can’t, simply because there is such a social difference between us and the people of Old Testament time and even New Testament time.  But that doesn’t let us off the hook.

In ancient times, there were the rich land owners.  They owned the land for generations and leased their land out to others to work, for a fee of the produce they raised.  Many had slaves.  That was a given, the norm in their society.  Slaves came from war, some were bought, others sold themselves into indentured slavery, others were children of slaves.  In other words, a large portion of the population was slaves.

In the time of the Romans, the wealthy and noble families of Rome commanded the army and ruled the land.  Under them came the rich and nobles of native populations.  Some were allowed to continue ruling, but under Rome.  Households were large estates, where families and relatives living together, from grandparents to grandchildren.  Only one was the head of the household.  There were no middle class.  The closest to a middle class were the merchants who had neither power nor prestige and were heavily taxed.

These stories from Luke were geared to the rich class, as today’s story obviously was pointing to.  This is important, otherwise we are taking the story out of context and trying to apply it to us.  That said, how do we apply the readings to us?  Simply this:

Jesus commands us to be aware of the nameless in our lives, since God knows them by name.  Notice the rich man was never named, but we know the name of Lazarus.  Look in the book of Exodus, you will never find the name of the Pharaoh mentioned anywhere!  None of the Egyptians were names except for the two midwives who served the Hebrew women!  Trust me.  The Godless go nameless.  The children of God are named, because God knows them by their name, since they call out to him.

After leaving here today, get to know the names of the nameless in your life.

 

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Mary and Martha”

16TH Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 10:38-42

“Martha and Mary”

Today’s Gospel is a familiar story of the famous family that Jesus often liked to visit and spend time with.  I can see him just kicking up his feet and relaxing with Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus.

In Luke’s version, Jesus and his disciples stop in to visit the family on their journey to Jerusalem, this narrative follows right after the story of the Good Samaritan.  We could call them the Family of Hospitality.  The story of Abraham and Sarah and their famous hospitality to the three angels, as the first reading today, sort of stresses the point.

But the story, as Luke is prone to do, takes a different turn on hospitality, when Martha comes out of the kitchen and asks for help from her sister, who is comfortably sitting at Jesus’ feet. But he reminds Martha, that Mary has chosen the better part.

Those listening to the story in Jesus’ time might have been surprised, since hospitality would have been at the top of the commandments for a nomadic tribe, as the descendants of Abraham were, and this commandment would have been understood and followed to the letter before even Moses gave the children of Israel the Ten Commandments, the other commandments.

Some scripture scholars like to liken Mary to the Active spiritual life and Mary to the Contemplative spiritual life.  However, the Lord is not calling us to be Martha or Mary, but Martha and Mary, Active and Contemplative!

We should imitate Abraham, Sarah and Martha by making great sacrifices in offering hospitality.  Prior to our high-tech times, a family began preparing a meal by picking out a steer and working with flour.  No freezer, microwaves or packaged foods!  To offer hospitality was a monumental, sacrificial task.  We can understand why Martha complained about being left alone to do such daunting household tasks.

We need also to imitate Mary by sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to His words.  This too is a formidable task.  Listening to someone, especially to God, is often more challenging than the hardest work.

Still, why would Jesus point out that Mary has chosen the better part?  The better part of what?  Hospitality?  Being hospitable, especially with the Lord, was more than feeding him, as Martha was preparing to do.  Being hospitable to guests also entailed sitting with them and sharing the news, listening to them and sharing in each others’ blessings and challenges.

The better part for Jesus was Mary listening to his words, the Words of Eternal Life.  It meant to be fed by Jesus with his words, words to live by, and not just Martha’s food.  That is what we have come here today to do, to sit at Jesus feet and listen to his Words of Eternal Life.

When you read John’s Gospel, we meet Martha and Mary several times, but several years later, where Jesus is challenging Martha to believe in him, the Resurrection and Life, and that he will raise her brother from the dead.  This is her response, “I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  Who said she was not listening to Jesus’ words from the kitchen, as she was preparing a meal for him?  “The Messiah, the Son of God,” sounds like the words that Peter uttered to Jesus so long ago.

And we can’t leave out Mary.  How did she fare after these years?  Her sister Martha was preparing a thanksgiving meal for Jesus for raising their brother Lazarus from the dead, and Mary enters into the room while Jesus and Lazarus are together, probably conversing.  Mary then proceeds to pour the expensive oil over Jesus feet and then wipe them with her hair.  Surely an extravagant way to show hospitality to guests, but by now this family is special to Jesus, and they are not ignorant of the present danger Jesus is in, being only a few miles from Jerusalem.  This time Mary plays the servant and washes the guests feet with her expensive oil, truly a powerful act of love on her part.

To this day I wonder if Jesus got this idea to use this loving act of serving when he washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper?

Action, Contemplation…seems like two sides of the same coin.

As we celebrate this Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper, hopefully we will be open to serving the Lord is whatever way he may call us, after contemplating his love for us in this wonderful meal he has served up for us.

 

READING CHAIR – Lyrics: I Am The Resurrection And Life

I Am The Resurrection And Life!

Michael F. Nartker, SM

REFRAIN:
I am the resurrection and the life,
All who believe in me will never die!

I heard him speak of the Kingdom of God,
At his feet how his words burned within me.
Though Jesus raised my brother from the dead,
I stand here sad before my Lord’s body!

I heard his words from the kitchen cooking,
A meal of thanks for a risen brother,
He asked, “Do I believe in him, the life?”
I knew them my brother would live again.

Oh, how he raised me from the jaws of death,
To live again until my second death.
But in my heart I knew that my final death
Would be the door to everlasting live.

Mary saw they had nailed him to a tree,
For Martha feared that day would quickly come.
But death didn’t raise Lazarus form the tomb,
For only you, Christ, had given him life!