Are we Lazarus or Mary and Martha? Are we a romantic couple or old prudes?


This past Sunday at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, Father Francisco delivered his homily on the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the resurrection of Lazarus. Father discussed the grieving process we all go through upon the death of a close relative. At our Cathedral, one of the prominent and most active members of our parish lost her mother within the past two weeks. Part of the resurrection of Lazarus discusses Mary and Martha.

St. Peter and St. Paul at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada
St. Peter and St. Paul at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada

Jesus comes to Bethany, in Hebrew, the “House of Poverty,” on the way to Jerusalem, “City of Peace.” Martha and then Mary, confronts Jesus with the bargaining stage of the grief process, “”Master, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. I know whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

This is very self centered and selfish. She thinks only about herself and her grief at the loss of her brother. Martha plays the Jewish mother. “If only you, the Messiah of God, God Incarnate, had cared enough to be here, my brother would still be alive… but he is not, so he died.” The statement implies, “You can redeem yourself by bringing my brother back to life.”

Bethany resides in our town of Reno Nevada
Bethany resides in our town of Reno Nevada

Being incarnate compassion, Jesus responds, “”Your brother will rise.” Martha thinks Jesus discusses last day. Jesus refers to his conversation with his followers earlier in the week, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” The disciples told him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” Lazarus is not dead, dead, but asleep, dead. He is no longer with Martha, but he is very much alive. In Hebrew, Mary and Martha are the same word. The root word is “Mar,” meaning bitterness. They are bitter at the loss of their brother.

Our loved ones are not our possessions. They do belong to us. “Belong” relates to the German word, “Belangen,” meaning, “To be a concern of.” We are concerned with each others welfare.

Father Francisco made the very strong point that God is incarnate in the Gospel and the Eucharist. From Deuteronomy 5:1-7 the Jewish community derives the concept of the Physical Presence of the Exodus from Egypt for the first time, each time the celebrate Passover. In a couple of weeks, our parish in Reno will celebrate Easter, the culmination of Passover. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate the Easter morning resurrection. In the Eucharist, and in the readings each Sunday, God is physically present in the same way the Exodus is physically present for the Jewish community each Passover.

We must grieve the loss of our loved ones. We must also move the stages of grief and come to acceptance. We see the same problem as we discuss the Healthcare Mandate as it relates to contraception. Yes, it is a problem. In the reading of the Gospel, the Jewish community comes and helps Mary and Martha to grieve the loss of their brother. We grieve as a community. We are concerned about each other. We belong to each other. Many conservative Catholics want to isolate their concerns from the concerns of the larger community. They are Martha, having no desire to listen to the concerns of the grander community. If they did, they might find common ground without compromising their values. They are not interested.

They take the Imminently defensible case, the injustice of having to fund programs we as Catholics disagree with, and turn it into something indefensible, the selfish desire to have things their way.

As Father Francisco related after Mass, “Lazarus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name, “Eleazar,” meaning Helper of God.” We must move beyond ourselves, beyond being Mary and Martha, the bitter ones interested only in our own loss. We must become the helpers of God Incarnate. Lazarus will live in us.

The Mass is like a romantic dinner. Candles are everywhere. The Bride of Christ is present, through the presence of the parishioners at our Cathedral in Reno. Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Dinner is present, and it includes cake, the host, and wine. The lighting is dim. All speak softly, as at a romantic dinner. Why is it that all love lovers, but nobody likes churchgoers? It can only be that we are not moving beyond ourselves. We are not yet Lazarus. Let us today begin our travel to the City of Peace.

Other interesting articles by Charlie

Of Caesar and his legion and how to remove big government from our lives

Of Thesis statements, Fish City, and the meaning of the Gospels

The Transfiguration, the Binding of Isaac, the Hallel, and the Passion of Jesus

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