In keeping with our sisters and brothers worldwide, who are admitted to the Sacraments of Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil through the catechumenate process (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), the following reflections are from Cycle A options for the readings.
Ez 37: 12- 14, Rom 8:8- 11, John 11:1 – 45.
All three readings lead us to meet Jesus, who is not only the water of life and the light of the world, but the Resurrection and life.
The Gospel presents us with Mary and Martha in a dilemma. Their dear brother Lazarus is dying; all the medical options have been tried and time is running out. There is just one last chance. Any of us would do what Mary and Martha did, they sent for Jesus. They had reached a level of despair, and counted on their rich relationship with Jesus to help them out. They sent him a message, “Lord, the man you love is ill.”
Mary and Martha went further down the path of despair and helplessness, when Jesus didn’t respond for two whole days, and by the time he arrived Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Jesus went within himself and called on his Father saying, “I thank you, for you always hear my prayer.” The power of God working through Jesus raises Lazarus from death.
The entire passage brings us through life and death, love and despair. We often say, death is a part of life and we have to accept it, while not seeing the life that is a part of death.
That is the message in the Gospel story for today: Life is always a part of death. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he was dramatically saying to us that death never has the last word. Life follows death, life comes from death, life continues after death, death is but a bump in the road on the journey of life. “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
There is more good news in this story. There are many bumps in the road on the journey of life. Death is so much a part of life that we die many deaths before the final death of our bodies. Marriages die, businesses fail, jobs are lost, health fails, loved ones are lost to dementia, self -confidence can die, hope can fade, financial security can be taken away. The list is endless. When one of these things happens to us, we die in some way.
When my mother died, my life as I knew it ended. I missed our conversations, her love for me, our bus journeys together. And a new way of life came out of that separation for me and gradually my grief gave way to gratitude for Mum. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is the good news that Jesus can raise any of us back to life after any of the deaths that we experience on the road of our journey of life. I’m sure Lazarus was different after he came out of that tomb where he was for four days. Each resurrection in our journey of life makes us a different person as well.
Jesus was not just giving Lazarus a longer life on this earth, for he would certainly die again. Jesus was demonstrating that for everyone who dies, eternal life is waiting. This is also the message of the prophet Ezekiel in the first reading in which God says to the Israelite people: “O, my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them….Then you shall know that I am the Lord…. I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”
Lazarus, Come out, come out of that tomb of death you have buried yourself in and receive the new life I have prepared for you.
I invite you, my reader, to claim the same for yourself.
Fionnuala Quinn O.P.