Each week as we listen to the various Gospel stories, the risk is that they are so familiar to us, that we can be blinded to the significance of the evergreen Word being proclaimed to us now. Whenever God’s Word is proclaimed, an invitation is extended to us, and our response depends on the ‘alertness’ of our minds and hearts to the activity of the Spirit within us.
Today we hear the familiar and so very touching story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Notice that Jesus cried! As we journey through the Gospels, there are many examples of Jesus being moved with emotion. Jesus sighs; Jesus is angry; Jesus loves with a heart set on fire by His Father … a heart, which reaches out, to all people in ordinary and difficult situations. Sometimes, His response causes a negative reaction among the people around him, because his invitation cuts right through to the bone.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus does not hide His feelings. He is moved with love whenever he sees people like sheep without a shepherd … He wept over Jerusalem before His Passion. In an outpouring of surrender from the Cross, Jesus cried out ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ The Roman Centurion, standing at the foot of the Cross, and hearing Jesus breathe his last, was brought to faith through gifted insight (faith) ‘This was a great and good man.’ In raising Lazarus from the tomb, Jesus was saying not only to His friend, but also to all of us … ‘Death cannot bind you. I have come to bring you to life and make you free!’ But there is more being said here in this Gospel story. We see the anguish of Mary and Martha over the death of their brother! We also see that for Jesus, their place was His home away from home! Jesus enters into the anguish of these two sisters and shares genuinely in their grief. This is true Biblical compassion. At the same time, He challenges them to believe ‘I am the Resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will never die (eternally) Do you believe this?’ And Martha said, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, and the one who has come into the world.’ Jesus was not only putting this question to Martha, He puts it to us! And what is our response? Lent is the perfect time to think this over and renew our response.
Finally, let’s not forget the significance and ongoing command from Jesus in his words: “Unbind him, let him go free!”This command was not only for Lazarus, this command is to all disciples of Jesus for all time. In looking at this command from Jesus, we are called to unbind ourselves, and be instruments of freedom to all people, so that they can be free! This is not just our desire or wish; this is the living out of the prayer of Jesus for all time. We must to do our part with Jesus in the fulfilment of His prayer. Look at ourselves! What needs to be unbound in us? What unspiritual speed humps cause us to be enslaved? Surely, being Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart, we need to recognise this in ourselves, and then through the deepest of compassion, be instruments of the Lord, in unbinding and enabling freedom in others. On this the 5th Sunday of Lent, as we are on the brink on entering into the holiest of weeks, we are called to reflect upon this important and pivotal message as we experience ‘being saved’, and being Angels in human form for others to experience ‘being saved’; (Salvation.) Let’s not forget that the saving hand of God were the hands that unbound, and set Lazarus free! How have you experienced that in your life? Food for thought, eh? When the chips are down, faith is our great ally in facing death. It does not mean that we have all the answers or that we are absented from grief or loss. On the contrary, the walking through grief and loss, and the shedding of tears, either as individuals but hopefully as a community, is necessary for our spiritual/human development. Surely, true compassion for those who suffer loss is really sharing in their suffering in a profound way. As the famous English writer C. S. Lewis once said, ‘The greatest lovers in this world are those who have suffered much’. Something to ponder, as we come closer to Holy Week!