Unbind Lazarus, and let him be free!
Each week as we listen to the various Gospel stories, the risk is that as they are so familiar to us, 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.
At this point we need to be totally curious about this wonderful story of Lazarus within the context of the Johannine community and their own aims an objectives in terms of Catechesis. So, let’s jump into the deep end of the pool! Lazarus……what does his name mean? The Greek name lazaros comes from the Hebrew el azar, meaning ‘God has helped’. Keeping in mind the overall intent of John and his community in the construction of this the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the SIGN par excellence as giver of life, when all hope is gone! The description of the exit of Lazarus from the Tomb, and the lapse of time between his burial and resurrection are surely anticipations of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We must remember that this Gospel was put together about 100 AD, so John the Evangelist and his community had the benefit of many years of reflection upon the man Jesus, and the Christ of faith, together with the Spirit filled Apostles who were living editions of The Good News.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the impact of this story. The text says that Jesus LOVED Mary, Martha and Lazarus. This is manifested in a particular way when Jesus, seeing the tears of Mary and the Jews, said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from his heart; ‘where have you put him?’ Let’s ponder this for a moment or two; we all know that Jesus was turned inside out with grief….we have all suffered that kind of experience during our life….here we have the human face of God, Jesus, doing this for us! This ‘internal agony’ was to be relived again in Jesus during the vigil before his death while at prayer in the Garden. ‘Father, if it be possible, let ME experience your saving hand through the drinking of this cup!’ Once again, I refer to Jesus weeping during this ordeal with Lazarus. Let’s not forget that Jesus wept for Jerusalem before his death!!!! Even in the sight and presence of Jesus, some people were skeptical…….in other words, their faith still had to be matured, and upon the exit of Lazarus from the Tomb, they too had the opportunity of being un bound! The famous words of Jesus which echo around us eternally was….’Unbind him, let him go free’. Notice that Jesus was the Intercessor in this prayer to God. Jesus asked others to enable Lazarus to walk free! We might ask, where was he going to walk? A good question. It would seem, according to the Biblical intent, that the walking of Lazarus in freedom is what each one of us is called to do and be! We, at the intercession of Jesus, are called to unbind ourselves with others their help, and in turn, we assist in doing the same for others.
Many of the Legal Eagles in our Lord’s time were bound up through legalities and thus had smothered the ‘life of God within in.’ others were bound up in living a life in opposite to the Covenant love of God……they were bound in another way. Surely, part of the Mission of the Church in the world is to ‘unbind people in the name of Jesus, and enable them to be free, to be faithful!
However, there seems to be a real genetic push within people, to bind up others. This is sometimes shown through some Church practices, and often straight out desiring power over others. Often the inadequacies within ourselves show their ugly faces through putting people in boxes, stamping a label on them, and putting them in a corner, all roped up! If that happens, we are the ones that are blind, we are lacking in God’s inner life, and once labeled; there is no room for change. Finally, notice that many of the people who saw this LIVING SIGN of God’s new life in Jesus, believed in Him. Conversely, when we as Intercessors of the Lord, go about unbinding others, the on lookers have a big chance of believing in the Lord. Let’s move on to looking at some further human outbursts of Jesus, and the effect that it had on others in terms of unbinding!!!
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 a scream 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 by observing that ‘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 could not bind you. I have come to bring you to life and to 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. 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 is also putting it to us! And what will our response be? Lent is the perfect time to think this over.
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 so that they know that they are not alone. As the famous English writer C. S. Lewis once said, ‘The greatest lovers in this world are those who have suffered much’. Finally, did you know that we are all called Lazarus? Well, we are! The fact that we are ‘salt of the earth and light of the world’, our relationship with God in Jesus, enables us to be all called: ‘God has helped’, because it is true! Can you remember times when Intercessors, acting in the name of Jesus have unbound you? Something to ponder as we come closer to Holy Week! Let us give thanks and praise in our Sunday Eucharist for all that God has done, is doing and will continue to do in us!
Fr Kevin Walsh
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/