Jesus says to us, "Unbind him.."

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (April 2)

By John Houk

The Cycle A readings for this Sunday:
Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalms 130:1-8
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45

The full text of the readings can be found here.

The Lenten readings always take my mind back to Little Flower Parish in South Bend, Indiana. At this time of year the parish would focus on those entering the Church through the RCIA program. The Lectionary suggests that if a parish has an active RCIA program that it use the Cycle A readings, and not only did Little Flower do that, but they reenacted those readings for the whole congregation. This is the Sunday for the Lazarus story in the Cycle A readings.

The voice of Jesus would ring out through the church, “Lazarus, come out!” and chills went up my spine. Then the voice of Jesus would say, “Unbind him and let him go.” At that moment the Elect and Candidates knew, and the whole congregation remembered, that this Jesus was the one who could and would call us out.

Today the voice of Jesus not only calls Lazarus out, but also calls us out of our own little secure place, our little box, our cave with the stone rolled across the entrance. He calls us to life, to a way of life, to his Way of life. How much we all want that for ourselves. We wait and hope for that call which will send chills up our spine when we recognize our own name in the voice of Jesus.

Come out, he calls. Come out and preach peace, bring about justice, feed the hungry, lift up the poor. Come out and speak truth to power. But Jesus knows that it is not enough to call someone, that person must also be unbound.

Lazarus was tightly bound with strips of cloth that wrapped around him until he was completely covered and unrecognizable. Our own binding can be so complete that no one knows who we really are. It becomes impossible for us to speak or act from our true center, and it is just as impossible to unbind ourselves. Jesus said, (you) “Unbind him and let him go.” Unbinding is what we do for each other after Jesus calls us out of our own dark place.

Our Church Community is where this unbinding is to take place. It isn’t happening for many Catholics, and the closer they are to the Church the tighter the bindings. It is a rare priest, vowed religious, Church employee, or even lay minister who feels they can speak and act from their true center. The possibilities of censure, reprisal, and even dismissal are real.

It seems to me that the great challenge to us as Church is to help unbind those who like Lazarus cannot unbind themselves. We must drive out fear from our Church, and this can only be done by us who have already been unbound. This is our place, our part to play. It is Jesus who says to the lay Catholic, “Unbind him and let him go.”