Fifth Sunday in Lent – Sister Helen Bellew, SNDdeN

Mar 22, 2023 | Gospel Reflections

March 26, 2023

John 11: 1-45

Love, Loss and Life

Our traditional understanding has been that Jesus was sent by God the Father to save us from our sins. During this time of Lent we give special focus to our sinfulness and our commitment to “do better.” The rituals of our devotions and our liturgies, particularly during Holy Week and the Triduum bring us up close to the enormous sufferings of Jesus, culminating with the story of His glorious Resurrection.

Equally important, Jesus chose to enter fully into our humanity to teach us how to live and love and care for each other. His experiences were wholly human. Beginning with His family of birth, in the scripture story of “the finding in the temple,” we learn that His Mother and Joseph, looking for Him, thought he was with family and friends. He was loved. He also experienced misunderstanding, rejection, and finally the extreme suffering of His passion and death. Jesus lived the gamut of human experiences and emotions.

In the gospel for this fifth Sunday of Lent, we find a scene full of detail describing Jesus’ human love and grief. Everyone in the story saw how Jesus had loved Lazarus. He wept! Any of us who have lost family members and friends whom we’ve loved dearly will understand how Jesus felt. Are we aware also that Jesus shares our love and loss and longs to comfort us in our grief?

Simultaneously, this gospel story reveals clearly Jesus’ divinity and his relationship to the Father. Lazarus was unmistakably dead, four days in the tomb. He was not merely sleeping or in need of resuscitation. There was no doubt that it was Jesus’ divine power that brought Lazarus back to life.

After Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb, bound hand and foot with his head wrapped in a cloth, He didn’t rush toward Lazarus to unbind him. Rather, he directed those around him, the community, “to untie him and let him go.” It was the community that Jesus called upon to free Lazarus from the ties that still prevented him from entering once again into full life. Jesus also expects each of us to be that community for one another, a lifegiving presence and support.

Tucked into this narrative is a direct and profound exchange between Jesus and Martha who acknowledges that her brother will rise on the last day. Jesus says to her: “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. Do you believe this? She said to him, “yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” As we continue our Lenten journey, can we join with Martha to say: “Yes, Lord, I believe. And what does this mean in our everyday lives? What do we need to do differently to “do better?”



John 11: 1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. 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. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to 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.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “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. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And 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.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

The Gospel of the Lord


Meet Sister Helen Bellew, SNDdeN

Helen Julie Bellew entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1961. She served as an elementary teacher and principal in New York, Washington, D.C. and Delaware for many years. She served as Executive Secretary to the United States Leadership of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and completed a four year term as a member of the United States National Team of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She continues to be actively involved with the board and faculty of a Notre Dame affiliated school, and is a member of the Life Care Network in her province, collaborating with others to plan for the future needs of the Sisters.