“Untie him and let him go free.”
The story of Lazarus, while true, also serves as an allegory for each of us. Like Lazarus, we suffer from a sickness that, without the visit of Christ, will bring death. We suffer from the sickness of sin. Without the voice of Christ we lie in a tomb, sealed away from the light. With Lazarus we may try to avoid the reality of our sinful death by attempting a pseudo life. Lazarus, like an Egyptian, was wrapped as a mummy in a vain effort to live forever. But even in fine linen, saturated with the most fragrant of perfumes and incense, the stench of our death will finally leak through. What are our linens and perfumes? They are those things by which we seek to bring form and identity to ourselves. They may actually be good things, but still they only preserve a diminished self. Perhaps they are even religious works but performed for the sight of men. Underneath, there is no true life. They are only a covering for the death within. Even though we design them to carry life they become instead our bondage.
Jesus may have tarried in visiting Lazarus, but he comes to us early. Early, even before the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions, knowing of the death that would fall upon us. Even before we were created, Jesus began to weep…His love crying out to us. This day, outside our cave Jesus stands calling. Do we hear his voice? “Lazarus come forth! Thomas come forth! Judith come forth! Come forth each of you my children. I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life.”
With certainty, as we respond to his voice we will immediately be raised in newness of life. A life that is now formed by that voice, by his Word…An identity that is now sparked by the call of his love. How glorious and personal this experience is. But we are not yet free. Should we try to walk in this new life, we would fall. Our hands and feet remain bound. Our face is yet covered. While this new life is personal, it is not private. Others must now come to our aid and set us free. Our full liberation depends on the ministry of our brothers and sisters around us. It is only with their help that we can be rid of the grave clothes – our sinful, self-centered patterns. As this Resurrection Community surrounds us with their love and care, our eyes are opened so that we can gaze upon Jesus; our feet are unbound so that we can follow him; our hands are loosed so that we can reach out and help the other newly resurrected.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Ez.37:12-14; Rom. 8:8-11; Jn.11;1-45
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.