From the Hermitage
5th Sunday of Lent
The Raising of Lazarus - Rembrandt
Before reflecting on the gospel, consider just for a moment the significance of the first reading. One might think Ezekiel was speaking for Yahweh about individual or communal resurrection. Not the case. Some consider it a foreshadowing of such resurrections, like Lazarus'. Ezekiel is speaking for Yahweh about the creation of a new Israel as the Jewish people were making their return to their homeland.
Now to the remarkable experience enjoyed by the sisters and friends of Lazarus. All of us, no doubt, know the story. We have heard it or read it many times. So, today we should be asking ourselves what does God want us to take from this the last miracle recorded in St. John's gospel.
In the first place, we might ask ourselves, as we look at the Rembrandt painting above, if this miracle action of Jesus is helps us believe in Jesus' promise of the resurrection for all of us who believe. That is the purpose of the event according to scripture scholars.
To draw from the story the graces that God wishes for each of us today, we should use the Ignatian method of prayer: place yourself in the scene ... hence the painting above. But first we should think about Mary and Martha and what they were facing. They knew that Jesus was a good friend of Lazarus. Jesus was only two days away and must have known that Lazarus was quite sick. Why wasn't he with Lazarus at the time he died? And as they tidied up the house to receive guests who were coming to offer condolences, they must have expressed to one another and close friends their disappointment that Jesus was not around. It must have hurt them to know that it would be a couple of days before he would get there. And why, why couldn't such a close friends who had worked so many miracles, why would he let his friend die? Why? Perhaps each of us has had those moments when a loved one or a close friend has died, especially a younger person who should have had many years more to live out his/her life. Why? Surely they must have been waiting to ask Jesus why he was not there to save their brother.
Jesus, obviously knew what would be happening to Lazarus. So, at least I try to ask this question: not why but what is it that Jesus is teaching not only Martha, Mary, the disciples and other friends of Lazarus and his sisters but each of us in today's world. What good, we ask, can there be for us if God does not save someone I or you love dearly.
Each time that I am driving to Lewes, Delaware for a visit with my brother who does not seem to be able to overpower the diabetic neurapothy that is preventing him from being able to walk. I have the same thoughts that others have when a loved one is not able to overcome a debilitating situation. All the medicines in the world, and none seem to be working for Jack. And what does this mean for me?
Riding back to Lanham on Friday of this week, passing through a goodly number of farms in the flatlands behind the busy ocean shores of Delaware, I engaged in some frustrating words with the Holy Spirit. The road I was traveling was so peaceful yet in my heart and soul there was much frustration. Before returning to the urban rush on Route 50, leaving the idyllic pastures of farmlands just beginning to turn green, I thought of the patience that God was asking of me. I told my brother that he should be grateful to God for these days because they are a reduction of purgatorial pains! For me, though, it is learning even at this age that trust in God is always going to be a challenge for me regardless of my age.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to teach Mary and Martha and the others. Trust in God!
Oremus pro invicem,