Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A
Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
Listen to the recording or read the text below.
These past three Sundays, including today, we have heard three great stories of conversion. We have seen three great signs that Jesus is the One who brings us to wholeness and to abundant life. Each of these stories leads us into a deeper conversion, into a deeper relationship with God, with Jesus.
The woman at the well meets Jesus for the first time. She comes to draw water at noon the brightest part of the day – seeking the light and the water that will quench her many thirsts. *
Through her conversation with Jesus she comes to experience herself as known completely and loved. She is converted – born again – and, in her joy, which she cannot contain, spreads this message to the whole town.
The blind man is sought by Jesus, and Jesus cures him of his blindness. The pushback happens almost immediately, as he is pressured to deny all that has happened to him. He does not waver from the truth of his experience and is kicked out of the synagogue. Jesus finds him and reveals to the man that he is the Messiah, and the man believes. He has seen the light.
Today Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. In this story, the one led to a deeper conversion is Martha. She knows Jesus and is a friend of his. Jesus often stays at their house when he is in Judea. Martha believes Jesus’ teachings and knows that the power of God is with him. So she sends a message for him to come and save Lazarus.
Jesus doesn’t come when Lazarus is sick, but waits until he dies. Both Martha and Mary let Jesus know of their displeasure. “Lord, if you would have been here, our brother would not have died.” We sometimes ask, “Where is Jesus when we really need him?”
Jesus, who knows the tears, the grief, the sadness of death, cries when he sees the tears of Martha and Mary. And he asks Martha to believe in what is not seen – life after death, that death is not the end. Both Martha and Mary, through their grief, are converted to a deeper knowing of Jesus and how God acts – in the midst of and through the human joys and sorrows of life. Or as one person said, “God enters in through the broken places of our hearts. If our hearts are never broken, how can God enter in?”
When Jesus asks, the people roll away the stone, even though, as Martha said, the stench will be awful. Jesus then calls forth Lazarus from the tomb, and he tells the people to “unbind him and let him go free.” He is alive! Lazarus also had some pushback from the religious authorities, for in a few verses later, they seek to kill Lazarus as well as seeking to kill Jesus.
However, death no longer has any power. It is that truth that makes it possible for Jesus to face his own crucifixion and death, for Jesus knows death has no power and life and wholeness always win.
It is hard, sometimes for me to grasp all this, to be converted and live when it seems that death, destruction, ruin and evil always seem to have the upper hand. God, though, works through the mess we humans make to transform us to wholeness, to convert us more deeply to life and love.
Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, even if they die, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world.”
Martha is led to a deeper conversion, one that seems to make no sense, yet is true. We die, but we do not die, we return to the God who made us out of love and we continue to be this love forever. This Love, this God, continues to create anew to bring all of creation to wholeness. Our life, our love is part of that. This is what Martha, the Blind Man, and the Woman at the Well all came to believe. We are all part of God – we begin with God’s love, we exist because of God’s love, we walk within God’s love, and we return to God’s love.
We are all called to a deeper conversion. Let us be open to this God who invites us to live into wholeness, to abundant life and to be love.
*Some Feminist Biblical scholars interpret John’s Gospel as one of light, so the woman comes seeking the light. Her husbands are the gods of Canaan and Samaria who have not satisfied her and she discards one after the other.