Fr. Isaac Slater, OCSO
5th Sunday of Lent
Year A readings
“The Son cannot do anything on his own but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does the Son will do also…For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.”
In raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus stages a prefiguration of his own paschal mystery. Just as the Father will raise Jesus from the dead, so Jesus raises Lazarus.
“Master, the one you love is ill.” In Jesus on the cross, the Father beholds the sickness of human mortality and sin, the tragedy of the human condition. He sees the suffering of each one of his beloved children taken up in the Son. And yet, mysteriously he “waits” and appears to “allow” the suffering of the one he loves.
“This illness is not to end in death… but so that the Son may be glorified through it.” As Jesus “allows” Lazarus to die in order to demonstrate the glory of God, the Father “allows” the suffering of the Son and in him of all humanity in order to bring to light the glory of the resurrection. To say that he “allows” is a very imperfect way of speaking however. God is not passive before evil and is no way complicit with it. He is never anything but “Yes”, a continual stream of glorification that takes upon itself and turns to good every obstacle.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the Son who bears the likeness of his Father; just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, Jesus is himself the power of Resurrection and life.
On seeing the tableaux of the mourners assembled around the tomb of his friend; and beholding the grief of his friends Martha and Mary—Jesus beheld in miniature the entire human condition—the tragedy of death. He also saw foreshadowed the still greater suffering of his mother, friends and disciples who would soon stand outside his own tomb and mourn for him.
“Jesus wept.” The Father’s infinite compassion overflowed into the incarnation of Jesus, as the compassion of Jesus flowed over in tears.
Where the raising of Lazarus is a public event, it is for the crowd, that they may believe Jesus was sent by God, the raising of Jesus on Easter takes place in deepest secrecy. There is a silence and mystery to this moment of Jesus’ emergence from the tomb too profound for words.
Jesus does not stumble from the tomb before a crowd of astonished mourners. Instead he rises in the depths of the human heart. His risen life wells up within us, as the certainty that our sins are forgiven, as a zeal, courage and energy unafraid of death, as longing for the resurrection of our own bodies and the joy of gazing on the face of God forever: “Christ in you—the hope of glory.”
“Untie him and let him go!” We must unbind the risen life within us, and within one another.
We know the Lord is God, we know in our bones he is the Resurrection and the life, when he opens our graves and we rise. He puts his spirit within us… and settles us upon our land. Grace perfects nature. We experience the life of another within our own, nearer to us than we are to ourselves…and yet this life makes us more truly ourselves, grounds and anchors us in the promised land of the new self.
Like Lazarus, each one of us has been locked in a fetid tomb, full of shame, fear, guilt and addiction. We have heard the Lord call us by name and command us to ‘Come out!’ from darkness into his marvelous light.
Each one of has been locked in the upper room, confused, afraid and hopeless… and found the risen Lord Jesus in our midst: “Peace be with you.” He breathes on us even now and says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He puts his spirit within us that we may live.
If the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, then although our bodies will die, we already live the risen life in spirit. If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us… then we have the sure promise that he will also raise up our mortal bodies on the last day.
We know the Lord is God, we know he is the Resurrection and life because once we were blind but now we see; we were lost but have been found. We were dead but have been raised to life.