Fifth Sunday of Lent

Original artwork by William Nelson

“Father, I thank you for hearing me; but because
of the crowd here I have said this, that they
may believe that you sent me.” And when
he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”

John 11:41-43

The raising of Lazarus is not a story of super-human powers, but a story of human vulnerability. It is a story of a man who opens himself to reveal his deepest passion and love to the world. It is the story of a man who will not allow fear to keep him from his passion. A story of patience, as this man, Jesus, is misunderstood again and again. And not by unbelievers, but by those who love him most. His agony, his desire to be seen in his fullness, drives him to tears. Language has its limits, and so this man, perturbed and deeply troubled, must reveal himself through some action. Not through an act of power, but through his own vulnerability. Jesus surrenders himself to Abba with a prayer of gratitude, in full view of the crowd. He is then naked, his “central wish” fully exposed: “…that they may believe that you sent me.” Nothing but an empty vessel, Jesus performs no act whatsoever, save an act of faith. And even in that, his final cry is not one of praise, but of lament, exasperation, and bald hope: “Lazarus, come out!”

Are we not witnessing here our Christ in formation? A man exposing his faith to a hidden future? One wonders to whom Lazarus is a greater affirmation of the truth of resurrection, those witnessing the scene or Jesus himself?

We all want to have an experience of our “central wish” fulfilled. Like Jesus, we can be perturbed by those around us who do not seem to understand or “get us.” We speak, and language is not enough; our articulations fail to carry the deeper meaning. We see that speaking truth has a limit, and our active life, our life-manifest is the sign of the presence of God working through us. This is why our goal for the Lenten season is to facilitate some practices that may help to form us through ordinary daily experience. Not everyday will we be asked to raise a man from the dead, but in time, as we draw nearer to God and come to rely more on God, we may enact the courage that allows us to stand exposed, as we truly are, to feel that place where, as theologian Frederick Buechner has written, “our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”

Our preparation these days of Lent are a passage—a passion—that may bring us to a deeper and fuller sense of being.

If you allow yourself
to be formed by God
through the common,
flow of everyday life,
you will gradually experience
a liberation and a freedom
never before imagined.

Fundamental Principles


Last week we honestly, humbly, and gently reflected on ways we could foster openness, flexibility, simplicity, and attention in our lives so that we may become more in tune with our unique core identity. We asked ourselves how we could incorporate some simple daily practices that would help us to develop these dispositions.

This week’s reflection asks that we encounter Jesus as the resurrected Lazarus. Read the Gospel story: John 11: 1-45. Place yourself into the scene. You have awakened from a void—darkness. Still covered in burial cloth, you stagger blindly toward the voice of Jesus.

You are untied. Left standing naked in front of Him. What false idea of self must be shed along with the burial cloth?

Jesus sees you as you are. He is fully present to you. What does it mean for you to stand exposed in front of Christ?

Notice that Jesus, too, has made himself vulnerable so that you may be resurrected. In this moment, Jesus is seeing you as you truly are. What does he see?

Share with Jesus, once again, your central wish.

As the newly resurrected Lazarus, you are a living affirmation of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus is affirmed in his own being through your presence to him. How does it feel to affirm Jesus in his own fullness, simply by being who you are?

Rest in the Love of God.

You are reborn each day and called to live your central wish. What simple practice(s) can you incorporate into your daily life that may facilitate this sense of being called to new life by Christ?


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