Come out of your tomb, Be Unbound and Set Free

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

I sometimes say to couples when I celebrate their wedding Mass that they bring weaknesses and hurts with them to their married life and they are called to heal each others’ wounds during their married life. They are to bring the love of Jesus to each other and help each other to grow to become whom God has called each of them to be. In the same way we may bring with us to seminary wounds, weaknesses and hurts. And we too are called to allow the Lord to work in our lives transforming us so that we become whom he has called us to be. In the Gospel today when Jesus had finished praying he said, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43) Jesus says to each of us also, “Come out of your tomb, come out your bondage. Do not live in the darkness, live in the light. Do not live in fear, live in faith.” When Lazarus came out of the tomb, Jesus then said, “Unbind him, let him go free.” Jesus also says to each of us, “Be unbound and go free. Live with my life. ” (John 11:44)

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead physically in his body. He had been dead for four days. Jesus had previously raised the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41-42,49-56) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and in the Old Testament Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:17-37). But nowhere is there an instance of someone being raised from the dead after four days. This is the crowning miracle of Jesus’ ministry. In fact in John’s Gospel it becomes the main reason leading to Jesus’ death. (John 11:45-53) If Jesus can restore a body that had been in the tomb for four days and has begun to decompose he can certainly mend the brokenness and wounds of our lives. Jesus said to Martha,

“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?” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus asks the same question of us also, “Do you believe this? Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that I can mend all the brokenness and wounds of your life? Do you believe that I not only offer you resurrection in the future but also the fullness of life now in the present?” Jesus proclaims that he is both the resurrection and the life. He promises future resurrection but also invites us to share now in the fullness of his life. The resurrection of Lazarus is not just a promise about the future of each of us. It is also an invitation from Jesus to enter into the fullness of his life in the present, right now, and that life will continue in us after death.

“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?” (John 11:25-26)

Do you believe that Jesus calls you to enjoy the fullness of his life now? Do you believe that Jesus is now calling you out of any tomb you may be in? Do you believe that even now Jesus is saying to you, “Be unbound and go free?” Let us today accept Jesus’ invitation, let us walk out of any tomb we may be in and allow ourselves to be unbound and go free.

How do we achieve this freedom? How do we get out of our tombs? Notice that Martha and Mary sent a message to Jesus. We too have to send a message to Jesus and we do this by spending time with Jesus in prayer and sharing with him our wounds, hurts and anxieties. One of the psalms says, “I kept it secret and my frame was wasted.” (Ps 32:3) Let us keep no secrets from Jesus but lay all bare before him. That is the only way to the mature relationship with Jesus. The motto chosen by the Catholic Church for the Jubilee 2000 was, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb 13:8) Since yesterday is the same as today for Jesus, as we share our wounds and anxieties with Jesus we ask him to walk back in time with us to that moment of wounding and to heal it. Then Jesus calls us out of the tomb to new life.

Notice that when Jesus received the message about Lazarus’ illness he stayed where he was for two more days. We expect God to answer prayer in our time but sometimes God’s time is different to ours. Also sometimes we may be tempted to despair and say God cannot do anything for me. This is like Martha in the Gospel who objected to the stone being removed. But Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) Jesus is constantly calling us to new life in him; to come forth from whatever is keeping us in bondage. Sometimes a hurt we thought had been healed in prayer may surface again months or years later. This is a grace from God, God is now inviting us to a deeper healing of that situation.

Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb but Jesus himself did not unbind him, others unbound Lazarus. When you meet Jesus in prayer he calls you out of your tomb, and your spiritual director unbinds you. You must begin the process of sending a message to Jesus like Martha and Mary by spending time in prayer and inviting the Lord into every aspect of your life and then answering his call to come out of the tomb. Your spiritual director will not be able to unbind you if you do not firstly accept Jesus’ invitation to come out of the tomb. Then, with the grace of Jesus, your spiritual director unbinds you and sets you free. But your spiritual director can do nothing if you do not firstly send the message to Jesus and answer his invitation.

What a wonderful invitation Jesus offers us. And in your future ministry you will, please God, extend this invitation on behalf of Jesus to all those to whom you minister. Let us today accept Jesus’ invitation, let us walk out of any bondage in the tomb, be unbound and go free.

“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?” (John 11:25-26)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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