Lent is for delaying.

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-A, 26 March 2023
Ezekiel 37:12-14 + Romans 8:8-11 + John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
Photo by author, 22 March 2023, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City.

We conclude this Sunday the three Johannine readings during this Lenten season with the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. More powerful than the healing of the man born blind last Sunday, St. John shows in this raising of Lazarus who had been dead for four days that Jesus is truly the Christ, the awaited Messiah. Most of all, it is in this raising of Lazarus that Jesus also made his greatest “I AM” statement of all, “I am the resurrection and the life”.

Like the two previous long stories from St. John, let us focus on the opening paragraph of this long narrative that right away gives us a hint of something very striking, of why Jesus delayed his coming to Lazarus supposed to be his friend, someone so dear to him.

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

John 11:3-7

An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.

Don’t you find it striking that after asserting that “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”, then, “he remained for two days in the place where he was” (vv.5-6)? How could Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus yet delayed his coming in visiting them, especially Lazarus who was sick? His love for Lazarus as his friend should have made him proceeded to visit him right away and had he gone soon enough, Lazarus would have not died at all!

Many times we are also baffled with God who claims to love us so much but too often, delays his coming to us, in answering our prayers, and even seems to allow us to suffer so much before finally coming to our rescue!

The key, my dear friends, is found in verse 4 when Jesus said “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Like in the healing of the man born blind last Sunday when Jesus told his disciples that “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn.9:3), St. John is reminding us in this raising of Lazarus from the dead that the love of Jesus Christ for us is manifested in works that show the glory of God by which we his disciples come to deeper faith.

When bad things happen to us making us feel in dire need of help and deliverance from God immediately, we tend to focus on what’s wrong, what’s broken and what needs help, expecting God to do something quick about it. But Jesus is teaching us this Sunday to approach situations of tragedy and deep crises like when somebody is too sick, even death by first seeking means how we can be an instrument who manifest God’s glory in this moment of great danger and need. Jesus is governed by something greater than human affection and expectations but by the Father’s will.

See at a very young age after Jesus was lost and then found in the temple when he clarified to his parents that he had to be in his Father’s home?! As he matured and later with his disciples, he would always insist on the need to seek, follow, and stand by the truths of the Father for he does and says nothing not known by the Father. When it seems to take time so long in receiving God’s assistance, never think he loves us less. In fact, he loves us so much that he finds something else so beautiful in such situations that he opts to delay in answering our prayer requests immediately.

Remember how the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land after their exodus from Egypt when they could have accomplished that in less than a month maybe or even a year. But in their wandering in the desert for 40 years, they were purified and bonded as a nation. It was during those years they developed their language and culture and most especially, the composition of the first five books of the bible! Many times, God delays his coming to us so as to make us stronger and deeper in our faith like Martha and Mary. Just because God does not act quickly to our needs does not mean he loves us less that we begin doubting his love for us.

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

The love of Jesus for everyone, especially his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary is best expressed in giving glory to the Father by helping them come into deeper faith. That is the greatest gift we can also give our family and friends – deepened faith through a life that points to God and not us.

There are times we feel like being grounded and even pulverized by God – dinudurog – not because he does not love us but primarily to transform us into better persons. In the first reading, God assured Ezekiel which was fulfilled in Christ that he would make us rise not only at the end of time but even in our little deaths daily in life by breathing into us his Spirt. This is the goal of every Lenten journey that leads to Easter, that amid all the sufferings and pains, even deaths we experience in life, we always emerge better, living more in the Spirit of God (second reading) than in flesh.

Hindi lang tayo mahal ng Diyos. Mahal na mahal na mahal tayo ng Diyos kay Jesus!

After each darkness in life, there is always new life in each new day with Jesus calling us to “come out” like Lazarus as a better disciple. Amen. Have a blessed week!

Photo by author, 22 March 2023, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City.
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