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The power of death and the power of God

A pastoral reflection from Fr Stephan Brown, SVD on this week's gospel reading: the raising of Lazarus.

Fr Stephan Brown, SVD. (Diocese of St. Petersburg)

This weekend, as we draw near to Holy Week and celebrate the Paschal Mystery, we see a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Jesus, as we see Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Upon receiving word of the illness of His dear and close friend Lazarus, Jesus delays. It would seem that the expected and appropriate response would have been going immediately to heal Lazarus. Jesus' response speaks to the heart of this account. Lazarus’ sickness and death has an even larger and greater purpose: namely, to give glory to God and to lead others from questioning, wondering, and fear to believing that he truly comes from God and that He is the one that Israel had hoped and long for through the scriptures' foretelling of the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus’ not going to Lazarus is meant to cause the people to believe.

So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.”
"Jesus raises Lazarus to life". (Jesus Mafa)

Jesus waits to take the short walk to Bethany and as a result, Lazarus dies. Upon Jesus' arrival, he has been in the grave four days. The encounters as Jesus arrives draw us deeper into the life, faith, and hope of His dear friends. Each encounter is one that ultimately leads to hope.

The sisters of Lazarus know Jesus. Mary sat as a disciple at the feet of Jesus; Martha was the one who served Jesus and was busy about many things. Let’s look at their faith and belief in Jesus.

Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.

Martha believes that Jesus can still do something even though Lazarus has been dead four days. Mary meets Jesus and falls to His feat, and again repeats the words of Martha, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” Throughout their wondering, their grief, and their pain, Jesus encourages them to “Believe.”

When Jesus asks them where they’ve laid him upon arriving at the tomb, and tells them to remove the stone, they again question. Jesus responds:Did I not tell you that if you believe  you will see the glory of God?”

Just as Jesus is about to raise Lazarus who is rotting in his grave, he prays:

Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”

Do you believe that God can transform your posture and position? Do you believe that God can turn your impossible situation into an opportunity of joy, praise, and thanksgiving? Lazarus is raised and invited to come forth resurrected and restored.

God’s power is available to us if we believe.

This reflection was originally published on the weekly pastor's blog of St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Fr Stephan Brown, SVD is a Cleveland native and pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is a longtime member of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

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