I read the following reflection at my Lay Dominican meeting this weekend. (St. Mary Magdalene Chapter, St. Albert the Great Province) We take turns sharing reflections, usually using the Sunday Gospel reading.
This weekend, the Church will once again hear the remarkable Gospel passage of Lazarus being raised from the dead. This miracle is only recorded in John’s Gospel. It is the last miracle before Jesus’ Passion, Death, and His own Resurrection.
We all know the story: Lazarus is a friend of Jesus, as are Mary & Martha who sent word to Jesus. In fact, the scriptures say, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Their close relationship must have made his delay appear very strange to his disciples. Generally, when a loved one is ill we try to see him as soon as possible. But Jesus tells us the reason for the delay: “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” We have the benefit of hindsight. We know what Jesus meant, but how confusing was this to his followers? Jesus had already cured many people of illness, why not do it again? Here, we see that Jesus is letting everyone know there is something much greater ahead. Perhaps some of the disciples were mindful of the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which we find in our first reading: “I am going to open up your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people…”
Throughout this Gospel passage, we see how the faith of the disciples is both deeply challenged and demonstrated. When Jesus finally says it’s time to go back to Judea, many are concerned about His safety because people there had tried to stone him to death. Yet, Thomas, who generally gets a bad rap, says “Let us also go to die with him.” Martha meets up with Jesus as He was heading to Bethany, saying her brother would not have died if Jesus had arrived sooner, but then proclaims, “But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” The remarkable faith these two disciples exhibited should be an inspiration and model to us!
As Jesus speaks to Martha, he tells her, and us, more about his very being. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life…” He speaks these words firmly, and asks her, “Do you believe this?” Of course, God knows our hearts, but it is critical that we affirm our belief in Him, especially in difficult times. Martha believed because she knew Jesus personally; He wasn’t just an amazing guy, not just a gifted preacher. She had encountered the Person of Jesus. And she was about to witness a miracle that would affirm her belief, and reveal to others Who Jesus is…the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Healer, the Redeemer, the Lord of all Life & Love!
As the passage continues, John tells us that Jesus wept. Christ is fully divine but also fully human. He experienced the sadness of grief, and joined in the sadness of everyone gathered at the tomb that day. I love this brief verse, because it highlights such a beautiful truth. Jesus does indeed know our sorrows and hurt, and He weeps with us.
It is surreal to ponder this fully human, grieving man who is Jesus, shift gears…as the Son of God. Was there a hush in the crowd? An anticipation of something spectacular? Were there doubters there as well? Despite her faith, Martha was concerned about the stench from the tomb; she truly did not know what was about to happen! There were many disciples there that day, who heard the prayer of Jesus to the Father. He wanted people to hear, and see, and believe! Lazarus had been dead for four days. There was no doubt that he was dead. What could possibly be done? With a simple sentence, “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus showed that he not only has command of the crashing waves, not only has power to cure disease, but literally has power over sin and death. Imagine the amazement…the awestruck faces…the tears of joy. “Do you believe?”
We know now that many rejected Him, despite what had to be the most remarkable event they had ever witnessed. We know from the following verses that some witnesses went to the Pharisees…who then began to plot to have Jesus killed. This miracle was truly a pivotal point in our salvation history. As Dominicans, we will meet up with those same doubters within our families, at work, on Facebook. There will be people who will complain that God doesn’t heal fast enough, that the stench of human suffering is a sign that He doesn’t care. Some will witness miracles, yet work so hard to deny them. Yet, just as the Gospel writer John was inspired and led to write about this miracle so we may believe, we must proclaim Jesus as well. Pray for the right words; pray for open hearts; pray for the conversion of souls.
To end, I will share this text that I discovered while researching reflections on this Gospel passage. I had been completely unfamiliar with St. Andrew of Crete, but I hope to learn more about him, because this is beautifully poetic:
“Lazarus, Come out!
As a friend, I am calling you; as Lord I am commanding you…Come out!
Let the stench of your body prove the resurrection.
Let the burial linen be undone so that they can recognize the one who was put in the tomb.
Teach them how all creation will be enlivened in a moment when the trumpet’s voice proclaims the resurrection of the dead.”
St. Andrew of Crete; Homily 8 on Lazarus (8th century Archbishop)
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