John 11: 1 – 45
As we near the end of Lent we have the Gospel of the death and resuscitation of Lazarus. For Jesus, his disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, the path to this miracle is full of emotion. These are emotions that show the humanity of Jesus and the emotions that make of life for each one of us.
It begins with the faith that comes out of a desperate need. Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. This was no simple illness, but one that Mary and Martha saw as serious and it moved them to ask Jesus for his help. They were friends of Jesus and they had faith that he could cure this illness. Jesus waits two days before telling the disciples that they were going back to Judea. The disciples seem to react with fear and Thomas reminds him that they just tried to stone him there. With Jesus there is not fear, but the determination to do a mighty work that would prove to those of faith that he truly is Messiah and Lord.
Jesus is greeted by Martha while Mary stayed home, mourning. This is a reversal of roles from the visit of Jesus to their house and Martha complained to Jesus that she was doing all the work while Mary was spending time with Jesus. Now it is Martha who leave the work behind to spend time with Jesus. Martha’s greeting includes an act of faith, “If you had been hear my brother would not have died.” Little did she know that death itself could not stand in the way of the power of Jesus. His knowledge of what was to happen did not prevent his heart from being moved with sadness as he experienced the grief and tears of Martha. He then responds with a teaching of who he is, “I am the Resurrection and the life…..”Mary joins them and makes that same act of faith, and as Jesus stood with Martha and Mary they began to weep. This is followed by the shortest verse in the entire Bible, “And Jesus wept.” It is a verse that tells us so much about Jesus. Jesus, who knew that Lazarus illness would not end in death, but that he would bring him back to death, was not exempt from human emotion.
By now had crowd had gathered to see what Jesus would do and they follow Jesus, Martha and Mary to the tomb. They take the stone away from the tomb expecting the strong stench from the decomposed body of Lazarus to permeate the air, instead as Jesus calls Lazarus, it is he who emerges from the tomb alive. Sadness, fear, disappointment and grief are soon forgotten as they witness this miracle and are reunited with Lazarus.
We experience difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible situations in life, and very often we cry out to Jesus to help. This Gospel reminds us that Jesus is with us even before we cry out, and he is journeying with us through the situations and emotions that fill us. In the end it is Jesus who cries out to us to “come forth” to look and see how he is with us. Sometimes it is in the unexpected “miracle”, others it is in the subtle presence that moves through us and quietly leads us on. Either way, Jesus is with us at the times we feel the most disappointed and abandoned. As we approach Holy week may we be able to truly unite these sufferings in our lives with the sufferings of Christ, and experience the presence of Christ in our lives in new ways.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: The Raising of Lazarus, Duccio di Buoninsegna 1310–11