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Reflection on the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Posted on March 29, 2020, by Agnes Ann Schum SL

We are slowly approaching the last days of Lent and the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus gives us hope that we will come out of our current experiences with renewed life – spiritually, physically and emotionally.  The Motherhouse Community has had to deal with some incredible challenges over the past several weeks.  First, there was the loss of our sacramental minister, demanding more creative prayer and communion services.  Second, there was the dealing of Kay Carlew’s sudden and unexpected death, leaving us with a reminder of how fragile life is and making us aware of our own mortality.  And if that wasn’t enough, thirdly, this Community, along with the rest of the world is trying to cope with the isolation forced on us by the coronavirus pandemic.  We had no choice about the occurrence of these events, but we do have a choice about our acceptance and attitude of trust and faith that God will see us through.

So let’s see what about the story of Lazarus encourages trust and faith?  “Lord, the one you love is sick” said the message.  Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, was clinging to life when Jesus received word from Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha.  And then Jesus did the unexpected  –  NOTHING!  According to John’s Gospel, Jesus stayed right where he was for two more days and did nothing while Lazarus died.  He had healed so many people before, so why didn’t He go immediately to Bethany, where Lazarus was and make him well?  How could he seemingly sit there and do nothing?

Don’t you hate it when God doesn’t do what you think He/She should?  I am certain most of us, at one time in life, have run into a situation and thought, “How could God have allowed that to happen?”  This is probably what Mary and Martha were thinking when Jesus finally arrived four days after Lazarus’ death.  Martha questioned Jesus upon his arrival, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died?”  In their hearts, I’m sure the sisters were full of disappointment in Jesus.  After all, he had healed so many others, why now did he not heal his personal friend?  Lazarus’ sisters loved Jesus and had grown to believe in Him, but were confused by His lack of action.

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even if they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  “Yes,” she replies.  “I have come to believe that you are the Son of God.”  Mary and the others who had been weeping, met up with Martha and Jesus and proceeded to the tomb.  Jesus, in his humanity, also wept for he loved Lazarus very much.  Seeing the grief and suffering of his dear friends Mary and Martha, Jesus responds by raising Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus, in that moment, was overcome, as we sometimes are, by the power of suffering and death. 

Just as Ezekiel reminds us in the first reading that God “’will open your graves and have you rise from them. … I will put my spirit in you that you may live. … I have promised and I will do it,’ says the Lord.”  After these long and challenging weeks, let us be assured that Easter and the promise of Resurrection for all of us is on the horizon.  Even as we watch the sometimes depressing news about this global virus, it is important to see the optimistic way in which people around the world are creatively keeping the human spirit alive. Young and old are raising their voices in song from their balconies while musicians add their gift of music and dancers dance.  In this time of home isolation, families are re-learning how to give their time and attention to their spouses and children.  Perhaps God has given the world a “time-out”  in hopes that we can rediscover and reclaim what is most important in life –   “Love and Relationships.”

It is also encouraging that our mother Earth is responding positively from the decrease in human impact.  For instance, Venice is reporting that the waters in the canals are the clearest they’ve been in decades since boat traffic has been almost completely suspended.  Car traffic has dropped considerably and so have fuel emissions making the air cleaner.  The cloud of smog that could be seen from space is nearly gone. 

As the new season of Spring begins and we have more days of sunshine, may we turn our attention to the signs of new life all around us.  May we delight in the birds’ songs, the pink and white blossoms on the trees, the yellow daffodils and forsythia, and yes, even the sounds of the lawnmowers.  These are the signs of Spring normalcy and the promise that things will change for the better, for just as Lazarus was a loved one of Jesus, we are God’s beloved and we believe God is always with us.


Agnes Ann Schum SL

Agnes Ann , who resides at Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky., is a member of the Motherhouse’s pastoral community care team.