Sermon Notes by Fr.Eugene A. Thalman M.M for Homilists and Religion Teachers. Embargo: Catholics are welcome to read after Noon, Sunday
3/12/02 5th Sunday Lent A John 11: 1-44
Even very small children gradually learn about death. Today seven year old, Dubaker Klausen, gives his mother a beautiful red rose for Mother’s Day. A couple of days latter he sees his mother sadly putting the wilted rose in the garbage can. Or perhaps one-day his mother takes Dubaker to a special building and he sees the neighbor lady, Mrs. Smith, sleeping quietly in a beautiful box. Mrs. Smith always gave Dubaker a bean curd popsicle. But today his mother tells him: “We won’t see any more of Mrs. Smith. She is as dead as a doornail.”
As we grow older, we see more and more plants, animals and people die. And then one day, we conclude that death is powerful and that “me” will die, too. Most non-Christians in Hong Kong believe that we can postpone death by good medical care and not eating too many hamburgers and French Fries. But in the long run, death is the victor.
TO DEFEAT DEATH:
The gospels tell us the story of Jesus and how he emerged victorious in a duel with death itself.
ST. JOHN PRESENTS JESUS ATTITUDE TOWARDS DEATH
Chapters 12 – 21 of St. John’s gospel describe the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. And in the first 11 chapters, St. John describes seven powerful miracles things that Jesus did. John calls them signs. Whereas St. Luke describes Jesus’ miracles so that we know that Jesus is compassionate, St. John describes Jesus’ miracles so that we will appreciate his divine power and give glory to God. Now St. John and his early Christian community at Ephesus have been prayerfully thinking about these events for over 65 years. So John has a lot of time to discover some interesting parallels between the raising of Lazarus and Jesus’ own Resurrection. Both events were a contest between Jesus and death.
Today’s sign, the seventh and last, happened only one week prior to Jesus’ cruel death. When learning of Lazarus sickness, Jesus says: “This sickness is not to end in death; rather it is for God’s glory…”
John assures us that Jesus loved his friends Martha, Mary and their brother, Lazarus. Before he did his miracle thing, Jesus tried to get Martha and Mary to believe. And Mary started to believe: “When Mary came to the place where Jesus was, seeing him, she fell at his feet” [worshipped] and she addressed Jesus as her, ‘Lord’” To say that “Jesus is her Lord” meant that Mary solemnly believed that Jesus is her divine all-powerful Savior.
But then Mary had second thoughts and ran off with the weeping Jews. Jesus was hoping that Mary would accompany him joyfully to the tomb confident that Jesus and she would soon be calling her brother out of the tomb. Instead Mary was crying like everybody else. Scripture tell us that Jesus was “troubled in spirit” meaning that he was angry with frustration at the hot-cold faith of his beloved disciples.
At the same time, Jesus hated to see Mary so sad and crying and even though he knew that shortly the sad tears would be replaced with tears of joy, Jesus couldn’t help but cry with Lazarus’ family. Jesus never lets us cry alone.
When they got to the tomb, Jesus told some big fellows to roll back the stone. John mentioned this detail because the following week Jesus would also be in a tomb but he wouldn’t need a team of weight lifters to remove the stone. He would roll back the stone himself. However, in the gospel today Jesus wanted others to join in the project of defeating death. Jesus doesn’t like to do anything that we can do for ourselves.
Now Martha was a very down-to-earth person. She told Jesus: “Lazarus has been dead for four days and he must already stink something terrible.”
Martha wanted to believe but deep down she figured that not even Jesus could conquer death. Jesus knew that the following week his disciples would suffer a great deal when they saw him put to death on the cross. Jesus wanted to give his disciples and those of us at Our Lady of Fatima this morning, a hope to sustain us when we relive Jesus’ Passion and Death in our own lives and for when we think about our “who me?” death.
When John reported Jesus’ words: “Roll back the stone,” John wants us to think about the stone that covered Jesus’ own tomb. When John reports Jesus’ words: “Lazarus, come out,” John reminds his Christian community that at the Resurrection Jesus came out of the tomb under his own power. And John tells how Lazarus was bound hand and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth.” John will later call our attention to another set of linen strips and another f ace cloth. On the morning of Jesus’ Resurrection, Peter and John went to inspect Jesus’ tomb.
“[John] did not enter the tomb but bent down to peer in, and saw the wrappings lying on the ground. Presently, Simon Peter came along behind him and entered the tomb. He observed the wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth which had covered the head not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed.” (John 20: 5-8.)
Jesus said: “Untie him.” And John parallels these words with what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene on Resurrection Sunday. When Mary, overcome with joy, tackled Jesus around the ankles and wouldn’t him let go: Jesus finally gave the order to her:
“Do not cling to me,” (John 20:17)
(Jesus needed to be free to continue the task of conquering death.
CHRISTIANS IN THE FACE OF DEATH We, Christians, are different from other people on Cheung Chau. We don’t try to pretend that death doesn’t exist. Nor do we pretend that death isn’t sorrowful and painful. We are realists. We look death in the face. We, Christians, know that in the Eucharist, we have a deep loving unbreakable relationship with the Risen Jesus. We believe that not even death is able to break this marvelous relationship with Jesus.
Christians face death confidently because they believe in final and total victory. Indeed death is a doormat upon which we, Christians, wipe our feet before entering eternal life with Jesus. Death tries to put us in a stinking tomb. But Jesus rolls back the stone, unties us, sets us free.
THE CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSE TO DEATH
Our non-Christian friends do not like to think about death. However, during these final weeks of Lent, we Christians purposely meditate on death. Our Friday night Stations of the Cross and the beautiful liturgical and Scriptural readings will make many references to death and will help us to do a lot thinking about death.
FINALE: If you will purposely meditate on death this coming week, raise your right hand. If you will not purposely meditate on death this coming week, please, don’t move for one minute.
3/12/02 5th Sunday Lent A John 11: 1-44
TWO WORDS: Vanquisher of death
THEME: We renew our belief in the power of Christ to vanquish death.
TEXT: “I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.”
DESIRED RESULT: Father, there is a decision in my life that I have kept putting off. Last week, I thought of my death and for better or for worse, made this decision. I hope it was the right decision.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:
“’It is in regard to death that man’s condition is most shrouded in doubt.’ [Gaudium et Spes #18] … For those who die in Christ’ s grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection. [Cf. Rom 6:23; cf. Gen 2:17] Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Mission Hills: Benziger Publishing Co, 1994), #1006, p. 262.
“‘Every action of hours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you ha quiet conscience….Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow….’” [The Imitation of Christ, 1,23,1.] Ibid, # 1014, p. 264.
“One of the most primitive formulations of Christian faith is the brief creed ‘Jesus is Lord.’” David M. Stanley and Raymond E. Brown “Aspects of New Testament Thought,” Raymond E. Brown et al, Jerome Biblical Commentary, (Englewood, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1968) p. 770.).
3/12/02 5th Sunday Lent A John 11: 1-44
nAME_____ fAVORITE Bible Passage when scared_____ Grade__
1. _T/F Christians can agree that death is a powerful enemy.
3. Would you tell a loved one that they only had a short time to live? Why? Or why not?
4. Tell a good reason why you should not tell a seriously ill non-Christian that they may die soon from their illness.
5. Tell some bad things about death:
6. When you are on your death, write a thought or sentence from the Bible that you would like someone to read to you over and over.