5th Sunday of Lent Reflection by Deacon Tim Sullivan
In today's Gopsel by John, we have an interesting portrait of Jesus, showcasing his divinity but also his humanity. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were very close friends of Jesus. He visited them, ate with them and talked at length with them. Having heard while he was preaching on the road that Lazarus was extremely sick he proceeded to visit them. He then heard Lazarus died (after Jesus intentionally delayed his return to see Martha and Mary).
Let’s digress for a minute. For us today, we have 2000 years’ worth of teaching and sacred scripture on who Jesus is. We have no problem viewing him through the lens of his divinity but its harder to see that in addition to being divine he was also completely human. We’re accustomed to reading about his miracles: multiplying the loaves and fishes; raising the dead; driving out demons; and curing the blind, the sick, the lame, and the leper. What we’re not at ease with is looking at Jesus in his humanity. We have to work down from his divinity to his humanity. The Apostles and his disciples had the opposite problem. They knew Jesus in his humanity and had to work up to his divinity. He was their friend, their companion, their teacher, and their brother and that was their experience with him.
Getting back to Lazarus, we’re told that Jesus wept. We also heard that Jesus had delayed getting back (after Lazarus had died) in order to manifest the glory and power of God. Jesus is chided by Lazarus’ sisters and others that had he been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Here we see that Jesus was perturbed (a very human emotion). Why was he perturbed? Simply stated “they just didn’t get it.” Despite all his preaching and teaching his Apostles and disciples just didn’t grasp Jesus’ mission. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, friends and family of Lazarus began to believe in Jesus.
During this Lenten season, its good to keep in mind that Jesus—who was truly and completely both God and man—experienced humiliation, unimaginable suffering, and torture in order that the gates of heaven be opened for each of us.
Lent is a great time for reflection. This Lent I’ve thought about the humanity of Jesus a lot, especially with regard to current events. When I taught New Testament at Loyola H.S. in Detroit, one of the exercises I gave them was to take Jesus out of Palestine 2000 years ago and place him in Detroit during the academic years I was there. This Lent I’ve done the same thing as a spiritual exercise for myself. I’ve tried to imagine if Jesus came back today, what would he think of the world. More specifically I’ve wondered what Jesus would think of the United States today if he came back in person. I have a feeling that he would be (is) horrified with the senseless violence in our own city of Chicago. Nationally, I’m certain that when Jesus would see our terribly divided country with anguish and would indeed “weep.” High school students terrorized by horrendous violence while supposedly safe in their classrooms, 1st and 2nd graders cut down before they could even start to experience life. People out for a relaxing evening at a music venue, people unwinding at a lounge after a long week, countless men, women, and children mercilessly killed by a simple physical action of a person’s index finger. This action has been repeated 18 times since January 1 of this year. Each time I can picture Jesus weeping. At this rate, we can count on 85 more instances of the same. With what has happened and what probably will, I can see Jesus quite perturbed (to say the least).
As we approach Holy Week, what can we do? Keep in mind when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane one of those with him drew their sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest. Jesus’s response, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (MT 26:51-52a). Will we?