Following the attempts to stone Christ at the mid-winter Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah, a celebration of the Judas Maccabee’s cleansing and rededication of the Temple), Christ safely withdrew several days journey from Jerusalem. While there, Christ received word from Mary and Martha of Bethany (a few miles from Jerusalem) that their brother, a dear friend of Jesus, was ill. Knowing Lazarus’ illness is fatal, Christ choses to wait two days for Lazarus to die and be buried before traveling to Bethany; Christ deliberately does not intervene in Lazarus’ death to do the Father’s will and Christ will raise Lazarus from the dead so the “Son of God may be glorified” and so the Apostles “may believe.” The Apostles are acutely aware that drawing near to Jerusalem will be dangerous (“we many die with Him”).

When Christ arrives, Lazarus’ body had been in the tomb for 4 days, confirming he is really dead and beginning to decay and that his soul has departed; the delay also results in a large number of Jews from Jerusalem to gather to mourn who will witness and spread the word of Christ’s miracle. Martha expresses an imperfect faith, failing to understand that Christ is God. Christ corrects her, proclaiming, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Martha faithfully confirms her new understanding, calling Christ the “Son of God”, but she does not fully understand for she will soon worry about the smell of death from the tomb.

Christ summons Mary, who runs and weeps at Christ’s feet, expressing her faith that He could have saved Lazarus; the mourning crowd follows. Christ weeps in compassion, causing the Jews to lament that Christ is too late. Coming to the tomb, Christ orders the stone rolled away. Martha is concerned about the stench of death, causing Christ to gently remind her that if she has faith, He will reveal the glory of God. After giving the Father glory so the Jews can hear, Christ thunders, “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus returns to life; Christ tells the people to unbind him. The miracle causes many Jews to believe; some go the Pharisees in Jerusalem and report the incident. Ironically, by raising Lazarus to life, Christ sets in motion His own death on the Cross.

1) The two-word sentence, “Jesus wept” is one of the most powerful sentences ever written. Marvel at God’s boundless mercy and His willingness to experience all human emotions (CCC 470-483), including deep sadness.

2) As Martha and Mary have difficulty in accepting God’s will, it is often difficult to trust God when unexplainable suffering occurs. During Lent, return to the petition in the Our Father, Thy Will be done…(CCC 2822-2827) and pray that Christ help you to accept and understand His will for you.

3) Like the Blessed Virgin’s simple statement of need at Cana (“They have no wine”), Mary and Martha’s “prayer” to Christ simply states the need (“Lazarus is ill”). During Lent, review the Catechism’s teaching on Intercessory Prayer (CCC 2634-2636) and commit to pray regularly to Christ with your needs and the needs of others, confident that Christ will hear and help.