On the Raising of Lazarus
I believe that this gospel account contains another invitation for us as well. It invites us to reflect on our lives in the here and now and to ask if we find ourselves imprisoned in the darkness of some tomb. That tomb may well have different names and shapes for each of us. It may be the tomb of some destructive pattern in our lives: a habit or way of relating that burdens us and alienates us from others. Like the people in this gospel story, we may fear that it is too late to get out of this tomb. We are simply caught in that unhealthy or destructive pattern. Yet Jesus stands there before us in fidelity and abiding compassion, as he did for his friend Lazarus. He says, “Take away that stone.” Take away the stone of despair, of destructive actions and attitudes, and allow me to offer you freedom and new life.
The tomb in which we find ourselves may consist of gripping worry and anxiety. Worry and fear over difficult circumstances or pressing responsibilities in our lives – mid-term examinations, our GPA, difficult relationships, concerns about job and career, family challenges. We may find ourselves trapped in worry about matters over which we have absolutely no control. That kind of anxiety can leave us trapped in a darkened and sealed-off existence, bound hand and foot like Lazarus. The Lord Jesus comes to us in that tomb, moved by the deepest emotion, just as he was over Lazarus. He commands that the stone be taken away, so that he can speak his word of peace to us.
The tomb in which we find ourselves may be the dark prison of negativity. We may find it difficult to see ourselves and our lives as worthwhile. Perhaps experiences of failure and disappointment, or the lack of appreciation and encouragement from others, have reinforced in us feelings of inadequacy or failure. Jesus comes to us in that tomb, too, commanding that the stone be removed. And if we could only see him standing before us, as the crowd in the gospel witnessed Jesus approaching the tomb of Lazarus, we would marvel at how much he loves us. In his steadfast love for us, he calls us out of the darkness of negativity and self-hatred, to live in the light of his love – to live in the recognition of our own worth and dignity in his eyes.
“And when he had said this, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot … So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go.’” At the celebration of the Eucharist, we profess this Jesus to be the Son of God, mighty in his divinity, with power to bring life to the dead. We also know him to be compassionate in his humanity – the one who wept at the death of his friend. He is the one in whom we place our hopes for the future, indeed our very hope for eternal life. And he is the one who comes to us in the present, with the same depth of concern and compassion, to call us out of whatever tomb we may be living in. He leads us out of the darkness of those tombs and sets us free to live in the light of his love.
Fr. Robin Ryan, cp