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Evang./Prof. Michael P. Howard, MACS

"Lazarus, come out!" Jn 11:1-45


The ending always captives me when I reflect on the Lazarus story on the fifth Sunday of Lent. I am drawn into the dynamic interactions between Martha and Jesus, the Father and Jesus, Lazarus and Jesus, and finally, Jesus and the crowd. In each of these encounters, we see a shift in conversations. 


In the conversation between Martha and Jesus, Jesus asked where they had laid Lazarus. Standing before the tomb, Jesus asked for the stone to be removed from the cave. Martha hesitantly said, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days." It's interesting to note that although Martha claimed to believe in the resurrection, she still had doubts about removing the stone due to the stench. This reminds us that ministry is not always glamorous and can often involve dealing with unpleasant smells and dirty situations. Nevertheless, we must still carry out our tasks as Jesus commanded and work towards freeing the captives.


The dialogue between the Father and Jesus is not a conversation; the interaction is more of a prayer: "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me." What stands out here is that Jesus also said in this prayer, "Because of the crowd here, I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me." In other words, Jesus wants the crowd to hear and see that He was sent by God the Father. Jesus wants the crowd to witness that He had a prayer life. His prayer is one full of gratitude. The first words were, "Thank you." Perhaps we, too, can start praying like Jesus by thanking God before asking Him to perform a deed. God is not a genie obliged to do our bidding or a Good Humor bar. We must learn to say, "Thank you to God for always hearing our prayers.


The exchange between Lazarus and Jesus is interesting. Jesus calls Lazarus from the cave. I wonder if Jesus used his loud voice like a child uses outside on the playground. It must have been deafening. Jesus could have whispered, "Come out," but he said it loudly for the sake of the crowd. The Scriptures say, "The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." I am still pondering this interaction, but when Jesus calls, will you answer? Will we be obedient when Jesus calls us to go to the prisons, hospitals, or schools where children need tutoring? Perhaps we have become deadened by complexity. We must no longer be dead people who answer Jesus' voice. 


Finally, Jesus turned his attention to the crowd and said, "Untie him and let him go." Excuse me, did I miss something here? The crowd earlier wept over the death of Lazarus. Mary and Martha were sobbing as well. So when Lazarus stood upright I am sure that everyone reacted in their special way.

More importantly, we must note that Mary, Martha, and the crowd experienced God's glory, which Jesus said would happen. At the beginning of this narrative, Jesus said, "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."

Think about God's glory. We see it when we move stones out of people's lives and thank God for hearing our prayers. It is also manifested in us when we respond to the voice of the Lord and untie the bands that prevent others from using their gifts in the community.

Do you know a Lazarus in your church or at your job? Say their name and help remove the stones and bandages, regardless of the smell.

Author: Evang./Prof. Michael Howard, MACS

Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF,

University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,

Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University,

Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry 



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Love the analogy of Martha's belief in the resurrection and the work of ministry.

It begs the question, "what are my thoughts and perceptions that prevent me from giving my all while doing ministry work for the Lord?"


Yes and Amen. We all have a bit of Lazarus in us! Thans for the reminder of our duty to answer.


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