WEEPING AT ANOTHER’S DEATH
‘Jesus weeps’ with sadness at the death of his friend, Lazarus. He does not hide his tears. But then as the Master of life and death, ‘the resurrection and the life’, he calls out: ‘Take the stone away …, Lazarus … come out …, Unbind Lazarus, and let him go free.’
Death comes in many forms other than our final exit. We may feel that we are losing our grip on life, that we are broken, defeated and destroyed. A kind of death may happen to us if or when we find ourselves suffering grief, hurt, illness, shame, humiliation, separation, or the end of our marriage. The dreadful experience, whatever form it takes, may even leave us feeling that we have no energy, no future, and nothing left to live for.
It’s not difficult to see Lazarus as representing every one of us. Perhaps at times we have felt that we too have ended up in a tomb! Dead and buried! Cut off from life and the joys of life! Helpless, frustrated, bound up, and falling apart! Feeling too that some huge boulder is blocking our path back to light, life, and freedom! A boulder too heavy for us to roll away on our own!
A particularly virulent and toxic form of living death is the disease of alcoholism. It not only destroys the living physical organs of the patient, but destroys their world of meaning and relationships as well. This has come home to me vividly in recent years when I was offering support to a recovering alcoholic. One of the things he said that will always stay with me is that until he finally turned to the AA program of recovery, he had been slowly but surely committing suicide.
Whatever form living death may take in our lives, we rarely recover without a great deal of help from other people, help which includes friendship every bit as much as professional therapy. This is where we all come into the lives of others. This is where we act like Jesus himself when he intervenes in the death of Lazarus and in the grief of Martha and Mary! This is where we help the ones we love and the ones we befriend, to get up from their living death, rise to new life, and get moving again.
So it’s a matter of being on the ready to be ‘Godsends’, agents and instruments of the Holy Spirit, in fact, to anyone who may need us. It’s a matter of being sensitive to, being responsible for, and being compassionate towards. It’s a matter of caring enough, reaching out to, and being there for. It’s a matter of believing in, hoping that, and supporting the struggling and stumbling ones, to get back on track and rediscover that life is worth living after all, and that they still have a lot of living to do.
Jesus wept at the loss of his dear friend Lazarus. So must we weep at the plight of people who mean much to us. Right now I’m still grieving over the murder of innocent Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati, cruelly murdered on February 17th, 2014, on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, and at the slowness of the authorities to charge anyone for his cruel death.
We cannot belong to Jesus without weeping with him at the tombs of our fellow human beings, and calling them out of those tombs into the light and love of God’s embrace. An alternative Opening Prayer today for our celebration of Jesus, our resurrection and our life, spells out beautifully what our communion with him and one another leads us to do and to be:
‘Father …,’ we pray, ‘the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross in order that his brothers and sisters might glory in new life. Change our selfishness into self-giving. Help us to embrace the world which you have given us that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.’
When the much loved Pope St John XXIII was dying he pointed to the crucifix near his bed and told those standing around him that it was those open arms of Jesus crucified that inspired his whole program of life and work. What an inspiration it is to you and me as well, to take our cue from Jesus, not only weeping at the death and loss of his close friend, but doing everything he could to change death into life, darkness into light, and sadness into joy!
For the sensitivity that we need, then, to notice when another human being is close to breaking-point, and for the courage, compassion and generosity to step in and offer our assistance before it’s too late, let us keep praying to the Lord: Lord, hear us…
Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP