Fifth Sunday of Lent | Year A

Posted on March 24, 2023 View all Gospel Reflection

You could say that the sweet smell of Mary’s perfume counters the stench of Lazarus’s tomb (John 11:39).

1.First the stench- stinking thinking or negative and sinful patterns of thought, e.g. “Do I harbor unreasonable suspicions or unfair judgments against my neighbor? Have I spoken uncharitably about another’s defects or shortcomings? “Have I entertained bad thoughts?” “Have I watched stuff that stinks?” Stinking thinking is rationalizing sin so that it sounds like a good idea or blaming others versus focusing on what you can control.

We all have within us some areas, some parts of our heart that are not alive; dead places in our hearts, Pope Francis says, describing it as attachment to sin.

Healing the stinking thinking involves “Secondary Change”—a deeper transformation. It represents a shift from seeing the world around you as the problem to seeing yourself as the real culprit.

[Healing the Addicted Brain of “Stinking Thinking” Is Critical to Relapse Prevention, Integrity Counseling Group, California, from their website].

If we say that our situation is worse than Lazarus’, who was in the tomb for four days, Ezekiel 37:12, from our First Reading promises, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”

After a battle, one way the victor shamed the enemy was to leave their bodies unburied and after a long time, the bones would be bleached white by the sun. The dry bones express the experience of the exiles after the fall of Jerusalem as thoroughly catastrophic- these decimated bones are all that is left of Israel.

But note, the Lord has Ezekiel himself say that prophetic words that triggers the restoration.  Like our Gospel, “Jesus looked up and said, ‘I thank you, Father, that you listen to me. I know that you always hear me: (John 11:41).

We have a part to play in our coming out of the tomb. St. Augustine said, “Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.” Doing our part means to cooperate with God by receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and praying.

Walking at night is explained by Schnackenburg as “If you refuse to walk with me…you run into darkness and are in danger of a much worse sort of fall, failing to attain salvation.”

Source: Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture, The Gospel of John, Francis Martin and William V. Wright IV, Baker Academic.

2. Mary’s perfume. (John 11:2)

Jesus was “greatly disturbed” And Jesus wept. In Psalm 56:8 says “My wanderings you have noted; you have collected my tears  stored in your bottle.” The Lord takes account of all our sadness and pain, wanderings, each single tear in His bottle of remembrance.

Mary and Martha had to go through the grieving process. Our Gospel reveals the tenderness of Jesus’ heart and exhort us to sit in mourning with a family grieving.

Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus if you’d just shown up here when I was in 7th grade, I would not have gotten math anxiety, or got sick, or broke, etc.

Jesus says to us: “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.”

Suffering and death are not meaningless. God can use them for his purposes even if it remains hidden to us, which speaks of the spiritual gift of hindsight. God has plans in mind that human beings can only fully grasp in hindsight.

Death, physical death, will come.  But this is not the death which separates us from God. 

Our Gospel today ends with, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

How about us? “Lazarus, come out!”