Commemoration of All Souls
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, thanks to the gifts you gave me in Baptism, I believe in you wholeheartedly, accepting your word as absolute truth; I trust in you and I place all my hope in you that one day I will share in the fullness of life in heaven; I want to love and serve you in my neighbor, for that is your greatest expectation in your followers
Petition: Lord, grant eternal life to all the faithful departed, especially those who were closest to me in this world. Strengthen my own faith, hope and love so that I will live my life here with my heart set on the life to come, and one day reach it, out of your mercy.
1. If you had been here…: Martha was so sure of Jesus’ love for her brother Lazarus that she was convinced he would not have let him die had he been there at the time—that he would both not want it and more importantly have the power not to allow it. Like all of us, she wished death didn’t have the power to take away her brother. Now, her faith makes an even greater leap, and she says, I know that God will grant whatever you ask. An indirect but clear petition, full of trust, no matter if Lazarus has been days in the tomb. Like any trial allowed by God, this one is for Martha’s benefit, and she rises to the occasion. Think over your if-you-had-been-here moments, when you were tempted to think God had let you down, and ask yourself what you have learned from them, what important lesson God was trying to teach you.
2. Your brother will rise… I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus’ pedagogy is gentle, patient and firm. We see in this exchange how he builds on the developing faith if Israel to take it one step further, to its fullness. Over time, the Chosen People grew in their understanding of what awaited man after death and by the time of Jesus a great number but not all Jews (for example, the Saducees) believed in the final resurrection. Jesus’ statement, your brother will rise, has the immediate effect of Martha stating her strong and unequivocal faith in the resurrection of the dead, but you also get the impression she is saying “yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about”. This is where Jesus takes her a step further. It is one thing to bring someone back to life, as Jesus can certainly do and had already done on several occasions, but quite another to declare, I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. It is the giant step from considering Jesus a miracle-worker to recognizing that he is God. The step from accepting miracles from his hands to believing in HIM, period. This is the step he invites Martha to take.
3. You are the Messiah, the Son of God. I have come to believe… Faith is a gift from God, but requires our acceptance. Faith is called to grow: our experience and knowledge of God, our conviction of his truth and mercy, are called to increase and deepen throughout our life with every new event we face, even if—or especially when—that new event is a trial or suffering. Difficulties exist to make our faith grow; they are an invitation to commit ourselves even more, as with the Three Wise Men when the star they were following disappeared. Every new statement of our faith we make in times of adversity is a building-block in the edifice God is building in and with us.
Conversation: Lord, keep me ever open in faith to all you do to and ask of me. Increase my faith in eternal life after death so that this light will guide my decisions here on earth, and also keep me always mindful to pray for those who have gone before me.
1. When have I felt God has let me down? How did I react?
2. How strong would I say my faith in the resurrection of the dead is, not theoretically, but in terms of the effect it has on the decisions I take?
3. Do I pray for the dead?