Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
Reflecting on John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45
Through the years I have had the great privilege to visit the Holy Land many times, but the only souvenir I have ever kept from my pilgrimages hangs on my wall, directly over my parent’s wedding picture of October 31, 1938. They smile out at me, these two young, beautiful, hopeful newlyweds, in the everyday clothes common to Depression-era weddings of the day.
Could they have imagined what the future would hold? The war in Europe was just getting going. They and everyone they knew would be changed by it. In ten years their children would finally arrive, and eventually their robust youth would give way to middle age. They would lose their parents and their siblings. They would raise their children in the faith, and that faith would sustain them when their own son went off to war.
The beautiful bride and groom are gone now. But their children live on, remembering them, loving them, knowing that at our own deaths we will see them again. When Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus call him out of the cave he climbed, climbed up from his dark tomb. I’ve seen that tomb. I have taken a torch and climbed down into its belly, and imagined the sound of Jesus, calling into its depths Lazarus! Come out! And the dead man came out.
So it was from here that I carried home my sole souvenir, a small mosaic that says “Bethany”. It keeps watch over the young newlyweds on the wall, and all their children and grandchildren, whose pictures surround them now. When our earthly bodies lie in death we’ll find an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.
What do you think it must have been like for Lazarus to come out of that tomb?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
What a great question!
Maybe it’s like awaking after a surgery or procedure that requires anesthesia to put you to sleep. I’ve had seven surgeries for Crohn’s disease and several more for other problems. I never took for granted that I would awake from any of them, except for the tonsillectomy when I was four.
It might be like awaking every morning, another thing I don’t take for granted, and being given another day to do something good for someone else.
The very interesting part for me to ponder is whether Lazarus was aware that he was dead before Jesus raised him. Everyone around him knew for those several days, but was Lazarus aware? Will we be aware when we die? The answer awaits in faith.
First, I want to repeat my thanks to Brebis for last week’s sharing — the tragedy and heroism with her sons’ death. This week’s reading reminds me of my friends who lost their only daughter in a fiery crash accident involving a drunk. When I conducted the prayer service, I just resonated with the parents with those lines: “Jesus, if you had come, my brother would not have died.”
And yet, the Lord heals in strange ways…. – – Cris
I love your question Brebis about whether Lazarus knew if he was dead. Do we know what deadens us?
I hear something a little different in this reading. Lazarus was dead until he heard Jesus’ call. When he did he was able to begin to loosen that which bound him up. What binds and deadens us? When Jesus’ loving voice pierces our tomb and we know he is there for us then we can begin to be set free.
Oh, Eileen, that’s excellent!
So often, we don’t know what deadens us to Jesus’ voice. Well put.
One summer I was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Kathy and the Biblical School, the opportunity of a lifetime. We visited Lazarus’ tomb in Bethany. For some reason the power was out and the caretaker gave us little candles about 4 inches long to light our way. With trepidation, I began the descent. Being somewhat claustrophobic, I had to really convince myself that I could do it. My candle in one hand and my other hand against the wall of the stairway, I tried. I really tried. But the darkness overtook me when the outside light no longer reached me. Everything started to close in on me and to my chagrin, in a matter of seconds, I was going up the narrow stairs bumping against the traffic of the rest of the pilgrims. I know what it’s like to come out of Lazarus’ tomb after feeling as if death would grab hold of me.
I needed the light just as Lazarus needed the Light. I was bound by my fear of closed in, underground places. There was no one calling me to “come out,” but for the sake of my sanity, I had to “go out.” Perhaps if the electric lights worked and we didn’t have to carry candles in a close procession down the stairs, I would have managed. Maybe if we could have seen the steps on which we walked. I don’t know. It felt like DEATH to enter but like LIFE to come out of the grave.
This gospel often amazes me. I imagine Lazarus felt a quickening at the sound of Jesus’ command, which he spoke in a loud voice, not only for the dead man to hear, but also for all those around him whose faith Jesus wanted to strengthen. I wonder if Lazarus thought to himself, Will I have to do this again?….And then, my death will bring sadness and grief a second time. Did he meet some kind angel who assisted him through the “tunnel,” or something that gave him a hint of the Beatific Vision? If he was moving closer to God’s glory, maybe he didn’t want to leave death. But Lazarus recognized the voice of his Friend and he knew Who called him to life. Having been bound, what a struggle it must have been for him to get up from a horizontal position. After 4 days of darkness, was he blinded by the sunlight? And if Martha had suggested a “stench” in the hot desert climate, did he sniff once under his arms before bringing forth with him the smell of death’s corruption? It was earthy! But what is the scent of new life? The “odor of Christ?” Lazarus must have been awe struck and amazed. He had to cooperate with the call; he had to come forth. I keep thinking about how each of us has to work with the grace that is given to us. Otherwise, we remain in the tomb of sin and lifelessness. When Lazarus was unbound, I bet Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus, his disciples and a host of others partied! Who wouldn’t celebrate the miracle and the seemingly impossible?
If you are interested in viewing a video of this Scripture, check out these links:
To answer the question… Lazarus was one HAPPY dude! I know. I know several, several times Jesus pulled me from the rubble and it is ALWAYS GREAT!!! How Come?? Because when you are buried and you are given another chance to try life again, you give it a whirl! When you are dead and you take that one new breath, it is a miracle!! (albeit just yours). Your’re right, Bobbie, there must have been such a party! God knows our fate but let us be like Lazarus and hear him to awaken us to his plan!!!