5th Sun Lent A
Sunday 29th March 2020

Image supplied by Lois Munroi

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This Sunday’s Gospel presents the last and greatest ‘sign’ that John uses to show who Jesus is. This story is the hinge by which we swing from all the ‘signs’ that have previously pointed to the glory of God in Jesus to the drama of that glory revealed once and for all in his Death and Resurrection. Irony abounds. The restoration of life to Lazarus so provokes the religious authorities that they decide upon the death of Jesus.

Though this Gospel text is long, it is not the full story. John presents Jesus as the close friend of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The odd mention of Mary’s anointing, which actually takes place later, makes us realise that this story goes right through into the next chapter. Where we stop in the Sunday reading is like watching a movie through to halfway. The centre of the story is the raising of Lazarus and the other parts of the story are arranged on either side like mirror images playing off each other.

Scene 1 a Illness and death of Lazarus Jn 11: 1-16
Scene 2 b Jesus’ dialogue with Martha 11:17-27
Scene 3 c Jesus’ dialogue with Mary and mourners. (11:28-37)
Scene 4 d Raising of Lazarus (11:38-44)
Scene 5 c* Conversion of many and plot to kill Jesus (11:45-57)
Scene 6 b* Jesus’ anointing by Mary (12:1-8)
Scene 7 a* Plot to kill Lazarus (12:9-11) (This structure comes from Flesh and Glory by Dorothy Lee.) . When Martha and Mary send their message to Jesus, they only tell him the fact that the man he loves is ill. They trust that his love will bring him to cure Lazarus but Jesus delays until he knows that Lazarus has died. In his dialogue with the disciples concerning light/darkness, rest/death and ‘the hours’, we understand that Jesus is entering freely into what is to come – all is under control. The disciples, knowing how dangerous return is, see it as suicide.

Martha’s dialogue with Jesus is one of the extraordinary moments in the Gospels. She is audacious in her faith. She senses that even though her brother has been dead for days, Jesus can do anything. She believes in the resurrection of the last day, she believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Yet when Jesus orders the tomb open, she objects. Her faith can only go so far. Her belief in Resurrection is for ‘after death’, her understanding of Jesus is as ‘the greatest intermediary with God’. She comprehends Jesus with the best vision of Jewish faith. Only with the outpouring of the Spirit at the death of Jesus could she come to the Christian level of faith which believes that Resurrection Life begins now and that Jesus is more than an intermediary: he and the Father are one.

At the tomb, Jesus groans with anger and weeps in grief. While being One with God, knowing that his hour for overcoming sin and death is near, he still shows how he is one with humanity. He experiences the emotions that we should have before those twin evils: anger at sin, grief at the effects of sin. There before the tomb he communes with his Father and then proclaims the words he addresses to us, each one of us whom he loves: “Come out!” Come out from death to life. Allow yourselves to be unbound.