The Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, we hear Martha say to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here…” (John 11:21). Are these not the same sort of words we want to say to Jesus as well? Do we not also cry out, “Lord, if you had been here…”? But whereas we might be tempted to use such words as a rebuke of the Lord, Martha intends no such thing. We know this is the case because she adds, “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (John 11:21). Her phrase, “Lord if you had been here…” is not one of blame, but one of trust in the power of the Lord Jesus. As it was with her, so must it be with us: we must always speak to the Lord in hope born of faith.
Martha knew well the words of the Psalmist: “I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord” (Psalm 130:5-6). When she and her sister Mary sent word to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness, Martha’s message was simple: “Master, the one you love is ill” (John 11:3). They did not ask Jesus to come; they did not beg him to come; they did not command him to come; they simply informed him. Why?
We so often seek to tell Jesus just how to solve our problems and the hardships of life; “Lord, if you had been here,” we say, “you could have done this or that.” But this is not how the women speak to Jesus; why did they not do so? "These women said nothing like this,” said Saint Augustine, “but only, ‘Lord, behold, he whom you love is ill' - as if to say: It is enough that you know. For you are not one that loves and then abandons." Because she knew that Jesus never abandons those whom he loves, Martha did not tell Jesus what to do, but instead waited for him to act; she waited in hope born of faith.
We see Jesus’ love for Lazarus in the brief but poignant words: “And Jesus wept” (John 5:35). Saint Bonaventure tells us that Jesus’ “compassion was a sign of his sorrow, and his sorrow was a sign of his love.” Even those around Jesus saw his love in those sacred tears, which is why they said, “See how he loved him” (John 5:36). In these present days in which we are seemingly surrounded by sadness, we like to think that we should not cry, that we should not weep, that we need to be strong for others. Jesus, however, showed the strength of his love through his tears. Perhaps it was these very tears that led J.R.R. Tolkien to put this counsel on the lips of Gandalf the White as he boarded the white ship at the Grey Havens to leave Middle-earth: “I will not say: Do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” Indeed, Saint Augustine asks, “Why did Christ weep except to teach us to weep?”
How many tears have we shed in these past many days, tears for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for strangers? How many tears have we shed as we have cried out to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here…”? How many more tears will we shed in the coming weeks? How many tears have been shed, and will be shed, because we do not have ready access to the Sacraments? How many tears have been shed, and will be shed, by priests who cannot be as close to our flocks as we would like? How many tears? Lord, if you had been here…
In the coming days, Mother Church invites us to unite ourselves ever more closely to the Passion of the Lord Jesus so we might understand more deeply that “with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption” (Psalm 130:7). We will be invited to contemplate the tremendous compassion Christ Jesus demonstrated for us not only in his tears, but especially and above all in his willing acceptance of the Cross for our salvation. From the Cross, we will hear him call out to us, “I have promised, and I will do it. I will open your graves and have you rise from them” (Ezekiel 37:14, 13).
This past Friday, the Holy Father Pope Francis reminded us of what is most important in these days: “Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.” As we, then, turn our gaze ever more attentively to the Cross of Christ, let us cry out to him, saying, “Master, the people you love are hurting.” With hope born of faith, let us wait for the Lord, trusting him to do what he will, for he is not one that loves and then abandons. Amen.
 Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 49.5. In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament Vol. IVb: John 11-21 (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2007), 3.
 Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 11:35 (Saint Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2007), 613.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994), 1007.
 Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 49.19. In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament Vol. IVb: John 11-21, 3.
 Pope Francis, Homily at the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer, 27 March 2020.