Saturday, April 9, 2011


“Elisha Raising the Son of the Shunammite”
by Lord Frederic Leighton, 1890

This Mass may be used on any day of this week, especially in Years B and C when the Gospel of Lazarus is not read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

Readings for Optional Mass For the Fifth Week of Lent

Readings and Commentary: [2]

2 Kings 4:18b-21, 32-37

The day came when the child of the Shunammite woman
was old enough to go out to his father among the reapers.
"My head hurts!" he complained to his father.
"Carry him to his mother," the father said to a servant.
The servant picked him up and carried him to his mother;
he stayed with her until noon, when he died in her lap.
The mother took him upstairs and laid him on the bed of the man of God.
Closing the door on him, she went out.
When Elisha reached the house,
he found the boy lying dead.
He went in, closed the door on them both,
and prayed to the LORD.
Then he lay upon the child on the bed,
placing his mouth upon the child's mouth,
his eyes upon the eyes, and his hands upon the hands.
As Elisha stretched himself over the child, the body became warm.
He arose, paced up and down the room,
and then once more lay down upon the boy,
who now sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
Elisha summoned Gehazi and said,
"Call the Shunammite."
She came at his call, and Elisha said to her, "Take your son."
She came in and fell at his feet in gratitude;
then she took her son and left the room.
Commentary on 2 Kgs 4:18b-21, 32-37

In the previous verses, the Shunaminite woman had done a great kindness to Elisha, providing him a roof and food when he passed by.  In return, he asked God to give her a son, for she had none and her husband was advanced in years.  This first gift from God is followed in this passage by a second as Elisha raises the child from death.

In doing so, the Prophet prefigures Christ who according to a sermon by St. Augustine, “Elisha arrived and went up to the chamber, just as Christ would come and go up to the scaffold of the cross. Elisha stretched himself upon the child, to raise him up; Christ humbled himself in order to raise up the world that was laid prone by sin. Elisha put his eyes on the child's eyes, his hands on his hands. Notice, my brothers, how that grown-up man shrank himself in order to fit the size of the dead child. What Elisha prefigured (in the way he cured the child), Christ fulfilled in regard to all mankind. Listen to what the Apostle says; 'He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death.' Because we were children, he made himself a child; because we lay dead, the first thing the doctor did was to bend over, for no one can raise his stricken brother unless he bends down to him. The child's sneezing seven times stands for the seven forms of grace of the Holy Spirit that are given mankind, in order to raise it up, at Christ's coming (Sermons attributed to St Augustine, Sermons, 42, 8). [3]

Psalm 17:1, 6-7, 8b and 15

R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee
from their foes to refuge at your right hand.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Commentary on Ps 17:1, 6-7, 8b and 15

Psalm 17 is a lament, a cry from one unjustly accused by enemies.  The psalmist begins proclaiming his innocence before God.  The plea for God to hear and answer is made followed by the steadfast hope in salvation and trust in God’s mercy.

John 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
when Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

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 Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
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.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,

“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear 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!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
Commentary on Jn 11:1-45

We join Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem recounted in St. John’s Gospel.  The story of Lazarus’ resurrection is part of what is known as “The seventh sign”.  The Jerome Biblical Commentary does a nice job of summarizing the purpose: “In the narration of this miracle Jn gives at one and the same time a supreme proof of the Lord's life-giving power and a visualization of the doctrine contained in the conversation of vv. 23-27. The miracle literally fulfills the words of Jesus in 5:28; it is a sign, therefore, both of the final resurrection and of the rising from sin to grace that takes place in the soul of the believer.”[4]

Within the story we see the very human emotions of Jesus they range from confidence in his relationship with the Father at the end of the story to the all too human grief and fear as he expresses his concern at what this revelatory event has cost his close friends, Martha and Mary, as they see their brother die.  This exchange of fear for faith seen in the witnesses is the same conversion the Gospel attempts to initiate in the Christian faithful in response to these events.

CCC: Jn 11 994; Jn 11:24 993, 1001; Jn 11:25 994; Jn 11:27 439; Jn 11:28 581; Jn 11:34 472; Jn 11:39 627; Jn 11:41-42 2604; Jn 11:44 640

See Sunday of the Fifth Week of Lent A

[1] The picture is “Elisha Raising the Son of the Shunammite” by Lord Frederic Leighton, 1890
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] The Navarre Bible: “Joshua-Kings”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2003, pp. 529
[4] Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 63:123, pp.446

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