JESUS, THE LORD OF LIFE RAISES TO LIFE
Whereas last Sunday we encountered Jesus giving sight to the man who was born blind, on this 5th Sunday of Lent we encounter Him giving life to a dead man. In order not to be mere observers but participants in what God is doing, we ought to note that both the blind man that received sight and the dead man (Lazarus) that received life are our representatives. We encounter Jesus, the Lord of Life and ask Him to raise us to life.
A cry out of the depths
A friend of mine almost shocked me when he sent me a message: „We are all dead“. I was forced to call him just to confirm, only to find out that he was still alive. In fact, I told him: „You are still alive“. I later found out that he wanted to describe the shadow of death that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has cast on our time. It is, thus, very good news to listen to the voice of Jesus calling out:“Come out!“ The prophet Ezekiel in the First Reading (Ez 37,12-14) presents a lifeless situation of the people of Israel when they were in exile. God promises to give them life through the outpouring of His Spirit. God promises to raise His people from their graves. We can also say that the situation we are living now is like a valley of death. With the psalmist (Ps 130, 1) we can say: „Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!“ This is a collective cry of the whole world entreating God’s intervention. What is required of us is a strong faith that enables us to wait for God’s answer. We are sure that He will answer. Just as the watchman waits for daybreak, so are we certain that our God will answer since He loves us. The journey that led Israel to become a chosen nation of Yahweh began with a helpless cry which God heard. „I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them…“ (Exodus 3, 7-8). Yes. With the Lord there is mercy and in Hm there is generous redemption. Learn to wait, for his answer may delay!
Listening to today’s Gospel text (John 11, 1-45), one would question why Jesus, a real friend, delayed to come to Lazarus before he died. His sisters had sent the message to him about Lazarus‘ illness: „Lord, he whom you love is ill.“ (John 11, 3). In this encounter questions are allowed. Why the delay? Jesus Himself gives the answer: „Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.“ (John 11,15) The evangelist John introduced the mission of Jesus in the world as being motivated solely by His love for the world: „God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.“ (John 3,16-17). Like the sisters of Lazarus, we ought to speak out our cry: „Lord, the one (the world) that you love is ill. God is not indifferent to the suffering of the world. Instead, He is with us in the midst of our struggles. He is compassion, that is, He suffers with the suffering.
Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in spirit. In him we see God whose heart is moved by the misery of his people. The people who saw him commented rightly: „See how he loved him!“ Let us remember that the one (Lazarus) for whom he sheds tears is our representative. See how he loves us! The reaction of Martha and Mary to Jesus‘ arrival speaks about the faith they had in Jesus‘ power to give life. „Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.“ (John 11, 21, 32). Where Jesus is, there is life. The only challenge for Jesus is that many prefer to live without him. In fact, they close him out of their lives and affairs (see Mk 5,17; Lk 4,28-30). Jesus‘ is more than mere sympathy. He comes to restore life. He is true God from true God, as we profess in the creed. On different occasions, he raised the dead back to life (see Mk 5,21-43 Jairus‘ daughter, Lk 7,11-17 widow’s son). When Jesus enters lifeless situations, life is made possible. The love that Jesus showed to Lazarus is the love that he has for each one of us. The lover will never leave the beloved to perish.
Take away the stone! Come out! Unbind him, and let him go!
The two imperatives „take away“ and „unbind“ point to a kind of collaboration that God always wishes to have from human beings in order to carry out His plans of giving life. His being moved and moving to the tomb is meant to move others to action. They shouldn’t be mere observers but active participants in the life-giving action of God. In fact, in raising his friend back to life, we notice that he engages the action of those who had come to console the bereaved family. They are to take away the stone and they and to unbind him. At the centre of all this is Jesus‘ mighty word: „Come out!“ He does this after a prayer to the Father. Jesus knows where his point of reference is. What happens to the dead man Lazarus coming out of the tomb, is what happens when the Father will raise his son from the dead. The women will find the stone rolled away from the tomb (John 11,41//John 20,1; Lk 24,2).
Resurrection as daily experience
The key for understanding and applying the word of God for us today is faith. Jesus is asking each one us: „Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?“ Faith enables us to remain firm even in the midst of crisis. The whole world seems to be currently burried in the grave of fear due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus. The Lord who is in charge of all life, is calling us all out of the tomb of fear. He wants us to have confidence in him. His intervention is meant for the glory of God. It is our hope that recognizing our vulnerability and limitation of our human resources, we may appreciate the treasure that our faith in God is. Our faith in God has been dead for a long time. This is the time to show the Lord „where we burried it“. Is it in the self-made graves of human progress? Let us show him the tombs! The call of Jesus should also be heard by individuals and communities to come out of sin and any sort of addiction. Let us help remove the stones in the way so that Jesus may find access to many more souls. Let us unbind one another from the cords of hatred and let God bind us together with cords of love. Let us remove the stones of individualism so as to live as a world in solidarity. If we do this, resurrection is then not a reality only of the after-world, but a daily experience of those who allow themselves to be led by God’s life-giving Spirit.