Gospel Commentary for 5th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

John 11:1-45 – The Raising of Lazarus

Q. Why does the Church choose this Gospel for the last Sunday before Palm Sunday as a kind of climax of the Lenten journey before we enter into Holy Week?

#1: A Perspective on Suffering & Death

  • Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead shows Jesus’ power over not just suffering, but death and even decay itself, the decomposition of the body.
    • The Jews believed that the soul left the body after 3 days. By waiting until the 4th day, Jesus clearly proves His ability to someone back from the dead.
  • Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead also shows His ability to manifest God’s glory through death.
    • A truly amazing miracle to prove that Jesus was sent by the Father (cf. John 11:42).

lazarus

#2: Reconciling God’s love & suffering

  • On a natural level, when we see people suffering, we want to say – “God must not love these people because they’re sick and they’re suffering and they’re dying.”
    • But Jesus, in His humanity, wept at the loss of Lazarus (11:35): “Why did Christ weep except to teach us to weep? (St. Augustine). Jesus fully participates in our suffering and he shows us that to weep and to mourn over the suffering and death of the world is natural and it’s a good thing.
  • On a supernatural level, today’s Gospel reveals that God actually shows a special love for those He allows to suffer. Why? Because He is drawing them into the mystery of His own suffering & His own death.
    • Read the lives of the saints! Think of the martyrs, St. John Paul II (Parkinson’s disease), St. Therese of Lisieux (tuberculosis), and St. Mother Teresa (interior darkness). Those to whom God calls to great holiness often go through great suffering.

jesus-lazarus

#3: To prepare us for Easter Sunday

  • In this last Sunday before Palm Sunday, in which we enter into the mysteries of Holy Week, the Church reminds us that Jesus has power over sin and death, that Jesus has power over the grave, that the glories of Easter Sunday await us.

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