The gripping drama of the rising of Lazarus points towards Jesus as the Lord of Life and prepares us for the celebration of our sharing in His Life at Easter.
But this Gospel (Jn 11:1-45) is more than this. It is a call for to consider if we are in a tomb, and if so, it asks us to hear the voice of the Lord calling us to shore up our courage and to come out of the tomb. The Gospel calls us to walk to the Lord.
Tombs are places for the dead. They are not pleasant. They are dark, wet, and rather stinky. They are not places we want to be. Still we often put ourselves in tombs. There are times that we feel very dead, particularly dead to the Lord. When we are in this spiritual malaise, we don’t want to reflect on our lives. We play a game with the Lord and ultimately with our eternal existence. The game is this: If we don’t think about what we have done or are doing to ourselves, then we can attempt to overlook our situation. Only, we can’t really do that, can we? We can fool others into thinking that we are happy, but we cannot fool ourselves.
So, we get involved in things that are negative, nasty, sinful. We tell others that we are happy with this life. We try to convince ourselves that we are happy with our lives. But we have a difficult time looking into the mirror. We have an even more difficult time walking into a church. And we have a horrible time taking God inside of us, or simply sitting before Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
We try to blame others. We make believe that they have put us into the tomb. For example, others have said, “You don’t know what you are missing. Drink this. Take that. Do this. Do that. You’ll be happy. Loosen up! You are the only one at the party who is not drinking. Everybody is taking X now, why do you think you are so different? Of course we have sex; you’re the only one I know who doesn’t.” And with a group around us, with our defenses down perhaps due to various difficulties in our lives we say, “No big deal. I should try this. I should do that. Everybody else is.” And then, the next day, if not sooner, we feel rotten, dirty, even dead. We can blame others for putting us into the tomb, but ultimately, we did it to ourselves. We chose sin and suffer from it.
There are also times that we race into a tomb completely on our own, without the temptation of others. We convince ourselves that this or that is not going to hurt us so much. And we go places where a Christian does not belong, be those places in the world or within our own rooms, or we do things to ourselves that frustrate ourselves, and then we feel dead.
“Come out, Lazarus!”
Jesus is calling us. We are all Lazarus’s. He is calling us to come out of the darkness, and come into His Light. He is calling us to come out of the place of death and come into His Life. In his second book on Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI points out that the early Christians referred to themselves as The Living. That is what we are called to be, alive in an otherwise dead world.
So, we ask ourselves today, “Am I happy with myself? Am I comfortable with my life? Am I happy with my relationship with God?” Those questions are just different ways of asking the same thing: “Am I alive, or am I dead?” Or, perhaps, “Is there something that is killing me?” Maybe, our relationship with others is pretty bad, and we tend to get nasty rather easily. Maybe we have friends that we try it impress by flaunting our sexuality, by joining them in drinking and drugs. We do our best to ignore the dying we feel within us, but the dying does not go away because we want it to go away. The way of death only goes away when we choose to walk away from it.
Lent may be winding down, but there is still time for us to receive the sacrament of penance. There is still time left for our Lenten Spring cleaning. There is still time for us to be at peace with ourselves and with our Lord.
We ask God today for the courage to walk away from that which is killing us and to walk towards the Light. We ask the Lord for the courage to walk towards the voice that is saying, “Lazarus, Come out!”