Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
“I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25
Resurrection from the dead is truly remarkable, quite frankly unfathomable. Yet, this is God’s gift to us poor sinners. The Word of God takes on sinful flesh with all that this implies including death (cf. Philippians 2:8). Then, the Word of God made flesh submits to death only to conquer it by rising from the dead three days later.
We join ourselves to the victory of Jesus over death. We do this through faith, that act of faith which unites us to infinite possibilities, including eternal life. It is to this vital and intimate union that Jesus invites Martha in the Gospel, when He says, “[W]hoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26).
Martha is concerned that her brother Lazarus has died. And Jesus will accept her beautiful profession of faith—“Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (John 11:27)—and raise her brother from the grave. This rising from the dead gives us a glorious future glimpse into what will occur at Easter. And we share in this. Every time at Mass when we pray, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,” we join ourselves to Martha’s profession of faith and hang upon the very word of Jesus, professing our belief in what He did for our salvation.
There are those who have problems with the meaning of what Jesus said. They say that “the words of Jesus must be contextualized,” that “no one had a recorder to take down his words,” and that “the word is relative” as appeared in a recent interview. To this I ask the question of Pope Benedict XVI in the “Foreword” of Jesus of Nazareth: “But what can faith in Jesus as the Christ possibly mean, in Jesus as the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so completely different from the picture that the Evangelists painted of him and that the Church, on the evidence of the Gospels, takes as the basis of her preaching?” We can be deconstructionists and say that words are symbols and only have meaning in relationship to other symbols, putting them in context if you please. But this deprives the word of its integrity and leaves meaning outside the reality of the word itself. When Jesus says, he who “believes in me, even if he dies, will live,” Martha does not respond, “Lord, let us put your words in context.”
Jesus words are an invitation. They are intended to elicit a profession of faith. Those who perform an existential gymnastic by maintaining that Jesus could not possibly have meant to say something that stands outside the realm of our human comprehension ultimately render the Christian message meaningless and perhaps miss the point that faith demands something from us. Again I quote Pope Benedict XVI: “Unless there had been something extraordinary in what happened, unless the person and the words of Jesus radically surpassed the hopes and expectations of the time, there is no way to explain why he was crucified or why he made such an impact” (Jesus of Nazareth, “Foreword,” xxii).
But the impact was as real as the words that accompanied them on that sunny day in Bethany when a man named Lazarus came walking out of a tomb after four days of burial and many began to believe in Jesus (John 11:45) for He had spoken the words, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43).
Bishop Glen John Provost