The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John is a prelude to the Resurrection of Jesus himself. An event which changed human history, and our world.
In this beautiful Gospel story, Jesus restores his "beloved" friend, Lazarus, to life.
The word "beloved" is used for a purpose. "Beloved" was a special term of endearment used by the early Christians. Thus, the story of Lazarus’ resurrection is our story as well.
This story helps us to come to a deeper faith; faith in the power of Jesus to raise us up.
This is how the the story develops:
Jesus is met by Martha. Although she has faith in Jesus, her faith is weak.
Martha objects when Jesus asks to have the stone rolled away from the tomb.
She had missed the meaning of Jesus’ words, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me, will never die,” John 11:25.
These words tell us that those who are united to Jesus in faith already experience the resurrection. Our relationship to the God who transfigures us, gives us the living water of grace, bathes us in the light of faith, and rescues us from the clutches of death. It is a relationship which begins now — surviving even after death.
This is truly the new life which the Resurrection signifies. The theme of life sums up the message of today’s Scripture.
As human beings, we are meant for life — not death.
Life is our cherished goal-life confined by no horizon, and unclouded by no fear. Jesus offers such a life to us; and He helps us to navigate that life’s course by his teaching and example.
After a brief prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God, Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the tomb. Lazarus came out of the tomb bound tight in the garment of death.
Jesus declares, "Untie him and let him go free,” John 11:44.
Like Lazarus, we are bound by the death-dealing powers which surround us.
And they are: narrow-mindedness, long-held grudges, broken relationships, and the inability to see life’s possibilities. Today’s Gospel offers us hope, it calls on us to untie one another, to free one another, and to journey together unfettered, knowing that in freedom, God walks with us.
Jesus did not say that the person who believes in him "will" have eternal life. He says that the person who believes in him "has" eternal life.
That is the big difference.
Christians who share in Christ’s new life of the Resurrection have eternal life offered to them now. They have been born again the way St. Paul describes it, "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me," Galatians 2:20.
Resurrection is more than a past event that happened to Jesus over 2,000 years ago.
Sure, the Resurrection of Jesus makes all good things possible for us. But what makes it really special for us — here and now — is that it is a gift that transforms our very existence in this world.
The Resurrection is God’s gift to us that keeps on giving.
Like Lazarus in this Gospel, we are called to make the passage from death to new life.
May you have the courage this Lent to die to sin so that you may enter more fully into the new life of the Resurrection.
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, “What is This Thing Called Faith?” is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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