March 1, 2024 | A Matter of Faith
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Pope Francis baptizes Auriea Harvey, a woman from the United States, during the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 8, 2023. CNS PHOTO/VATICAN MEDIA

Do you believe this?


If your parish has people who are seeking baptism at the Easter Vigil this year, you will probably hear the Gospel passage from John regarding the raising of Lazarus from the dead during the fifth week of Lent.

Surprisingly, when Jesus receives the news that his good friend, Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, is sick and near to death, he does not rush to see him and comfort him or his family. He takes his time getting there.

However, upon arriving, Jesus finds that Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days. As he approaches the house, Jesus is met by Martha who is less than happy to see her friend. Instead, she starts to really give it to him – I mean really chew on him! What does she say? “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha is clearly angry. It is easy to look back on this scene with 2,000 years of hindsight and theological understanding and say to ourselves, “Man, Martha needs to take it easy… she’s speaking to God.” But we need to understand that in her anger, she is expressing a deep faith and belief in the Lord. We know this by her next statement: “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Even though Martha is angry with Jesus, she has not given up on Jesus. Jesus assures her that her brother will rise again and then he proclaims clearly, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me…will never die.” After saying this, he looks directly at Martha and asks her, “Do you believe this?” And without any hesitation, she replies, “Yes, Lord. I… believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Despite her loss, grief, and pain, Martha is still able to have faith and confidence in Jesus as the resurrection and the life who has come into the world.

I think this Gospel passage functions as a signpost that points and leads us to Holy Week. On Holy Thursday, we are asked to stand with Jesus as he is betrayed and denied. On Good Friday he will be condemned, beaten, and crucified. He will die. There is no way of ignoring or avoiding the reality of the death of Jesus. But the cross is not our final destination. It is only a stage on our journey – not only through Lent – but in our lives too. With the women who stood by Jesus at his death, we too must stay at the foot of the cross before we experience the joy of the resurrection. On Good Friday, we are asked to experience the fact and reality of death – and not just Jesus’ death – but our own mortality as well. But we are also asked to have faith in Jesus as Martha did. As we take another step on our Lenten journey, Jesus says to each one of us, “I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?”

Difficult as death and the loss of a family member or a friend is, we are asked not to lose faith in God. God will not abandon us at our time of need. Jesus offers us the promise and hope of new and everlasting life.

As we face the reality of Good Friday, let us also look towards the new life of Easter Sunday. Jesus is still the resurrection and the life. If we believe in him, we shall not die.

Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit, email [email protected] or call (270) 852-8324.

Originally printed in the March 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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