When I was growing up, we had a Holy Bible always sitting on an end table in the living room. It had vivid pictures from both the Old and New Testaments. The image that fascinated me the most showed Our Lord calling a well-wrapped Lazarus forth from the tomb. Now that was impressive.
And it’s worth contemplating on this, the fourth Sunday of Easter. (Only three more Easter Sundays to go before Pentecost!)
Who was Lazarus? We don’t know much about him other than that he was a close friend of Jesus’. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). Jesus was the wonder worker. So it is no surprise that, when Lazarus became seriously ill, his sisters sent for Jesus. Yet Jesus delayed two days. Then he said Lazarus was merely asleep.
I can sympathize with Lazarus’ sisters and the disciples. They didn’t get it. Our Lord often spoke in parables and figures of speech. Was he doing the same now? As he did on all occasions when his disciples did not understand, Jesus clarified plainly: “Lazarus has died.” A miracle was going to be performed so that they, the followers of Jesus, “may believe.”
Now Martha, the “active” sister, admonishes Jesus for failing to arrive sooner. He assures her that her brother will rise at the resurrection on the last day. He even goes on to say, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he dies, shall live” (John 11:22). Jesus asks Martha if she believes this. Martha says Yes, then goes for her sister. Mary confronts the Lord with the same puzzlement as Martha: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Then occurs a startling thing. Jesus looks around, sees Mary weeping, sees the Jews who had come with her weeping, begins to appear troubled — and finally weeps himself.
When I read sacred Scripture, I always see interplay between Jesus’ humanity and his divinity. This is one occasion where his humanity shines. In his divinity, he knew he was going to raise Lazarus back to life. And yet, in his humanity, he was deeply moved by people’s sorrow.
At the foot of the cross, Mary must have been fully aware of her Son’s forthcoming resurrection. Surely she believed what he had told her about it. And yet even that knowledge did not spare her from suffering.
The same is true of you and me. It takes time to work out the emotional and spiritual ramifications of the death of someone close to us. The pain may not go away, but hopefully lessens over time.
We should continue to pray for our departed loved ones and unite with Jesus, offering up our emotional, physical and spiritual suffering for their souls and our own. Let us look forward to our greatest reunion, when we meet our loved ones again in heaven — minus the burial linens.
Brother John Raymond is
co-founder of the Community of the Monks of Adoration in