Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Lent Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Shortest Verse

Do you know what is the shortest verse in the Bible? In the English translation the shortest verse in the whole Bible is in our Gospel reading today. We heard the reading of this shortest verse: "And Jesus wept." In other English translations there are only two words here, "Jesus wept." In the original Greek there are three words, Edakrusen ho Jesus.

We do not know if the man who divided the books of the Bible into verses knew the significance of what he did here, putting only these two words in one verse. This man was Robert Estienne (also known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin) who divided the Greek New Testament into verses in 1551. Prior to this Archbishop Stephen Langton divided the Bible into chapters in the early thirteenth century. Before these two persons there were no chapters and verses in the books of the Bible.

Robert Estienne had no idea that this verse would be called the shortest verse in the Bible and would cause questions in the minds of many scholars of all churches in the world. One commentator wrote that this shortest verse in Scripture becomes the most powerful when seen in the light of both the deity and humanity of our Lord.

The questions arose because these students of the Bible asked, Why? Why did Jesus weep?

I searched for the answers why Jesus wept and I found out 38 reasons given by commentators, preachers, writers, why Jesus wept. Trimming down these reasons because many were similar I came up with twenty four reasons why Jesus wept. The sources of these reasons are diverse. Time does not allow us to mention these sources. There is only one source which I will mention later on because his reason seems to be the one very close to the one we will discuss here as the real reason why Jesus wept.

Here they are. I do not comment about these reasons whether they are good or bad, valid or not at all. One of these reasons is funny.

The first answer to the question why Jesus wept is that we have no way of knowing why Jesus wept. We may never get to the bottom of the infinite meaning in these two words: Jesus wept. Why not ask Jesus with humility why he wept?

The second is because Jesus was reminded that sin destroys, sin kills, sin stinks.

The third reason listed is because of the unbelief that surrounded Him. He had given a promise that Lazarus would rise, but no one embraced or believed it. On the contrary, they were all mourning.

The fourth is because He knew He was going to pull Lazarus out of Paradise and bring him back to this planet. Poor Lazarus!

The fifth reason is because, although He knew everything would turn out well eventually, those around Him were hurting presently.

The sixth reason is that Jesus was still saddened by death. Death is always tragic, life is always precious. Since Jesus is truly compassionate, he must weep for Lazarus as we all weep for the dead.

Seventh, Jesus wept because he was like us in all things but sin. Humans cry at the loss of a loved one. Jesus loved Lazarus. He cried over the loss of Lazarus.

Eighth, Jesus was feeling the pain experienced by those around him who had not only seen Lazarus slowly die, but had also suffered the frustration of Jesus not being there to cure him.

Ninth, Jesus wept because of Mary and Martha's unbelief.

Tenth, Jesus may have wept for the death of Lazarus just as we too weep, even though we believe in eternal life.

Eleventh, Jesus was just being Jesus, our beloved and gentle, sensitive and kind Brother.

Twelfth, Jesus wept because he saw Mary and the others weeping.

Thirteenth, Jesus wept because the audience needed to know that he loved Lazarus.

Fourteenth, Jesus wept to illustrate the incredible empathy that he had for those who were in emotional distress.

Fifteenth, Jesus’ tears are not so much from empathy or sorrow as they are from frustration at lack of faith of the people around him.

Sixteenth, a large portion of everyone involved—especially Mary and a chunk of the crowd—declared that Jesus made the wrong move by not curing Lazarus. This hurt Jesus. It made him mad and, I am sure, also made him sad.

Seventeenth, Jesus wept to show the people that He was not just a prophet, but God who raises people up from the grave, the weeping prophet Jeremiah prophesied about. That is why Jesus wept and not because He felt sad about Mary and Martha feeling sorrow but to show them he was the weeping prophet.

Eighteenth, Jesus wept because he loved them (Martha and Mary) and felt their pain. When you love someone you share in their grief.

The nineteenth in our list is given by Abdul Abu. He says that the reason why Jesus wept was because of the spiritual destruction awaiting humanity that we couldn’t see with our physical eyes which is judgment.

Twentieth, Jesus wept because human cry is one of the sacred signs that the human soul is divine.

Twenty first, Jesus wept to give us a good example to follow by weeping with those weeping, thereby identifying with His people.

Twenty second, he wept because he was not being recognized as the Resurrection and the Life and only as a prophet. 

Twenty third, because of the cost of redemption, his father’s wrath on him. Lazarus' death showed that people had to be redeemed but the cost of this was that his own Father would be angry at him on the cross.

And the last one in our list, twenty four, Jesus wept because this raising would be the cause of his own death. When the religious leaders heard about this miracle they resolved all the more to kill Jesus.

Actually the reason why Jesus wept is very clear for us to see. This reason is in the word which is repeated in our Gospel reading, both in the two instances before Jesus weeps. That word is "perturbed".

The first time this word is mentioned is in this passage: "When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." And Jesus wept.".

This word "perturbed" is repeated in this passage, just before Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb. "So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it."

This word "perturbed" is the key to understanding why Jesus wept on this occasion. The original word used here comes from the Greek embrimaomai which in this context means "to be moved with anger". Simply put, Jesus was terribly angry. This anger led him to weep and groan.

So the proper question to ask is, What led Jesus to be so terribly angry that he wept?

And the simple answer is that he was terribly angry with the Jews, especially the Jewish authorities. He was angry because they were so blind, terribly blind.

Any normal person would recognize that this miracle, raising a person dead for four days already, was a work of God and would lead him to recognize the doer of this miracle as a servant of God. But the Jewish authorities reacted otherwise. They saw Jesus as the threat to their position of power because he could raise a dead man to life again. And they wanted to kill him.

Jesus was mad at the people, at their hardness of heart. He also was sad about what would happen to them because of the result of what they were to do to him. Abdul Abu gave the right reason. Listen to him. Jesus wept because of the spiritual destruction awaiting humanity that we couldn’t see with our physical eyes which is judgment. This spiritual destruction was caused by unbelief when he was doing something very plain to prove he was, at least, a servant of God, if not the Messiah they were eagerly waiting for for four centuries.

Jesus is very mad at us, very angry at us when he gives us all the helps to recognize him in the sacraments, in the altar, in the need of our neighbor, in the problems of our society and yet we turn a deaf ear to him and instead crucify him again.

Our first reading tells us when this anger of Jesus will end. It will end when people will be raised from their old, disobedient ways to a new life created by God's spirit. The prophet Ezekiel says that the LORD will open their graves and raise them up and he will put his spirit in them so that they will act according to his spirit and not according to their stubborn ways.

The second reading tells us how this is done. Paul the Apostle says that the Spirit of God dwells in them.

Lent is a time of reflecting upon this righteous anger of Jesus. He is angry at our disbelief of him. This causes him to weep for us, for our destruction if we do not turn our hearts around and believe in him completely for everything in our life.

There is a song worth pondering during this season. The title of this song is simply “He”. The last lines sing, Though it makes him sad to see the way we live he’ll always say I forgive.” Yes, Jesus forgives, even if he has to weep because of our hardness of heart.

Let us pray as we bow our heads. Lord Jesus, you wept at the occasion of Lazarus’ death because you were so angry at the Jewish authorities who did not believe in you. Put a new spirit in us, as prophesied in our first reading, so that we would live by your spirit and we would no longer cause you pain. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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