Gospel Reflections

5th Sunday of Lent

John 11:1-45

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Maureen O'Brien

Published: March 29, 2020

Up until this Lent, the death and new life scenario involving Jesus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha in John 11:1-45 had always helped me to pivot from a somber, though hopeful Lenten journey, into that moment when I started to feel that Easter was just around the corner. The arrival of spring with its longer days and the small breaks in the earth where green shoots emerge provided a backdrop for the last stages of my personal journey towards Resurrection.   

John’s compassionate retelling of Jesus’ reaction to the news of his friend Lazarus’ illness and  death, his response by weeping with Mary on the way to the tomb and his call to Lazarus to come forth, was always a call for me, too. This was my time to choose to be a stand-in for Lazarus, or for his sisters, Martha and Mary, depending on what was happening in my life.  But not this year.

For the past few weeks, I have read and reread the words of John and came to realize that John’s words and the words of Jesus were drawing me into a different Lenten journey this year, a communal journey shaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

When I try to connect my reading and reflection of John 11:1-45 to the reality of the pandemic, I am stuck. There are just too many personal roadblocks. I am fearful, anxious and angry. I find myself asking God over and over again, “Where are you in the face of so much pain and suffering.”  More times than not, God asks me in return, “Where are you in the face of so much pain and suffering?”

Physically, I am sheltering in place and following social distancing recommendations. I am working with colleagues to prepare online courses for adult ESOL students and checking in with family and friends to see how they are.  Spiritually, I am praying for healthcare personnel, scientists and for those who are most vulnerable. Without thinking about it, I am praying and singing a comforting hymn, “Be not afraid.”

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