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Friday, 24 March 2023 16:34

Fifth Sunday of Lent - 2023

John 11: 1-45. The Raising of Lazarus

 “JESUS SAID: ‘TAKE AWAY THE STONE!’ “

Bill Burt 150This coming Sunday’s Gospel is full of drama. It tells the story of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, who died, was buried, then raised from the dead. There are dialogues between Jesus & his disciples, and Jesus & Lazarus’ sisters, Mary & Martha, culminating in his instruction to take away the stone which closed the tomb, and then his command to the dead Lazarus to come back to life.

The raising of Lazarus Twitter 550While marveling at the event, and possibly experiencing a strengthening of our personal faith in Jesus who has such power, it can be helpful to consider what special lessons might be learned from Lazarus’ resurrection story.

For me, the instruction of Jesus, “Take away the stone!”, has a special significance. In the reality of history, Jesus spoke those words to people who lived almost 2000 years ago in a far-off land. He told them to take something that was blocking a grave, to enable his friend to come out of a place of death and come into life. Reflecting on this, I find myself imagining Jesus saying these words to me, another of his friends. I hear him saying, “Bill, take away the stones that are blocking your life. Don’t be dominated by with those parts of your existence that are negative, that are stopping you from being truly alive!”

Ever since I accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him, I have taken to heart his words, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John14:6). Yet in reality I can easily forget what St. Irenaeus, who was born in Türkiye in around 130AD, is famously said to have stated, “the glory of God is a person who is fully alive”. These words speak to me.

I know this, but I can let bad habits, shortcomings and weaknesses sap the energy from my life. I can forget the truth that “God does not make junk”, when depressing thoughts dominate, being like stones which block the flow of God’s grace. I can compare myself with others who seem so much brighter, talented and intelligent, who seem so much more fortunate or blessed, and wonder if I really am loved by God.

Yet, giving in to such thoughts is not only unhealthy, but it can be soul-destroying. As Easter approaches, the triumph of life over death invites us to celebrate what it means to have Jesus constantly saying to us, “Take away those stones!” He said to his friend all those years ago, “Lazarus come out!” And he says to me now , “My friend, come out! Let me give you life, to the fullest!”

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.