In this Sunday’s Gospel, Mary and Martha may have felt that their good friend, Jesus, had abandoned them. He did not come when they sent him word of their brother’s serious illness. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have die,” both sisters greet Jesus when he finally does arrive, four days after Lazarus had died. Jesus answers, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And then he raises his friend from death, foreshadowing his own approaching death and resurrection.
This Gospel points directly to our gathering at Mass to remember, and thank and praise God for what is called the “paschal mystery,” the central belief of our Catholic faith. Christ suffered and died on the cross, passing through death to resurrection and ascending to heaven in glory. Because of these actions, Jesus won for us the promise that we too will pass through death to eternal life. We especially concentrate on this mystery during the part of the liturgical year we are now in, The paschal cycle (Lent-Triduum-Easter Cycle).
References to Jesus’ death and resurrection abound in the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass. We proclaim this “mystery of faith” when we sing the memorial acclamation right after the consecration. Four options are given for the acclamation. The fourth is usually the one we hear during Lent: “Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free (from sin and death). You are the savior of the world.”
Like the psalm for the readings, we at times may feel like praying, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” Our cry may arise out of the depths of personal loss, grave sin, serious illness or mental anguish. We might feel abandoned in such circumstances, just as Mary and Martha felt abandoned by their friend, Jesus; just as Jesus who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” from the cross. But Jesus did come and raised Lazarus from death. God did not abandon his Son, but resurrected and glorified him. That’s what the paschal mystery promises, that we can trust that God will not abandon us. God will bring us through death, destruction or loss to new life.
Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.