On the Resurrection of Lazarus
"The Last Great 'Sign' Worked by Jesus"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our Lenten journey we have arrived at the 5th Sunday, characterized by the Gospel that narrates the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45). This is the last great “sign” worked by Jesus, and after it the high priests will convene the Sanhedrin and will decide to kill him; it is also decided that Lazarus himself will be killed. Lazarus was the living proof of Christ’s divinity and Christ is the Lord of life and death. In reality this Gospel passage shows Jesus as true Man and true God.
In the first place the evangelist insists on his friendship with Lazarus and the sisters Martha and Mary. He emphasizes that “Jesus loved them very much” (John 11:5), and for this reason wants to work the great prodigy. “Our friend Lazarus has died, but I am going to awaken him” (John 11:11). This is how he spoke to the disciples, expressing God’s view of physical death with the metaphor of sleep: God indeed sees it as sleep from which one can awaken. Jesus shows an absolute power in the face of this death: One sees it when he gives life back to the young son of the widow of Nain (cf. Luke 7:11-17) and to the 12-year-old daughter (cf. Mark 5:35-43). Of the young girl he says, “She is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39), provoking the derision of those present. But in truth this is precisely what it is: The death of the body is a sleep from which God can awaken one at any moment.
This lordship over death does not impede Jesus from experiencing sincere compassion for the sorrow of parting. Seeing Mary and Martha crying and, along with those who had come to console them, Jesus too “is deeply moved and disturbed” and in the end “he wept” (John 11:33, 35). Jesus’ heart is divine-human: In him God and man have perfectly met, without separation and without confusion, he is the image, indeed, the incarnation of the God who is love, mercy, paternal and maternal tenderness, of the God who is Life. This is why he solemnly declares to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, he will live; whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.” And he adds: “Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
It is a question that Jesus addresses to each one of us; a question that certainly overwhelms us, it overwhelms our ability to understand, and it asks us to entrust ourselves to him, as he has entrusted himself to the Father. Martha’s response is exemplary: “Yes, O Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27). Yes, O Lord! We too believe, despite our doubts and our darkness; we believe in you, because you have the words of eternal life; we want to believe in you, who gives us a trustworthy hope of life beyond life, of authentic and full life in your kingdom of light and peace.
We entrust this prayer to Mary Most Holy. May her intercession strengthen our faith and our hope in Jesus, especially in the moments of great trial and difficulty?
[After the Angelus the Pope said the following in Italian:]
In these last days, violence and horror have again bloodied the Holy Land, feeding a spiral of destruction and death that does not seem to have an end. As I invite you to insistently implore the Almighty Lord for the gift of peace for those regions, I desire to entrust to his mercy the many innocent victims and to express solidarity with the families and the wounded.
Moreover, I encourage the Israeli and Palestinian authorities in their proposal to continue to build, through negotiation, a peaceful and just future, and I ask all in the name of God to abandon the tortuous ways of hatred and vendetta and to responsibly travel the ways of dialogue and trust.
And this is also my wish for Iraq, while we are still concerned over the fate of His Excellency Monsignore Rahho and of many Iraqis who continue to suffer from a blind and absurd violence, certainly contrary to the wishes of God.
Next Thursday, March 13, at 5:30 in the evening, I will preside at a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica for the young people of the Diocese of Rome. It will be a powerful moment of preparation for the 23rd World Youth Day which will celebrate on Palm Sunday and which will culminate in July with the great meeting in Sydney. Dear young people of Rome, I invite all of you to this appointment with the Mercy of God! To the priests and leaders I recommend that you promote this participation of young people making the words of the apostle Paul your own: “We are ambassadors of Christ … let yourselves be reconciled with God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
My greetings to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially to the members of the European Parents Association and to the staff and students of Saint Patrick’s Evangelization School from Soho, London. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. We also hear how Martha, in the midst of her grief, was able to make her great profession of faith: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world." As we approach the season of Our Lord’s Passion, we pray that our own faith may be strengthened, so that we too can place all our hope in him who is the resurrection and the life. Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.
© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana