still another biblical reflection, based on John 11.32-44, for All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2015
“Jesus wept” at Lazarus’ grave. Death bears an inescapable burden of grief for us and for God, who joins us in our suffering. That, for me, is good, comforting news.
More marvelously, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But what’s the point of the Lord having been there (yes, a bit late, after Lazarus had died the first time) to bring him back to life only to have him die a second time? Asking this question another way: What sense can be made of this miracle-story other than it appears to signify a temporary interruption of the inexorably permanent journey from birth to death?
To reiterate the obvious, death is real. It happens. By whatever cause, always. All of us must approach and cross the threshold of this life into death. And whenever our loved ones precede us in this predestined rite of passage, we, grieving, discover anew that death hurts. Always.
Still, in the light or rather shadow of this brutal certainty, I dare trust the gospel, the good news of Jesus, the proclamation of which I hear in his call, “Lazarus, come out!”
As Jesus summoned Lazarus from death into life, so he calls me into life from the death-tombs of my own making…
Those times and places when and where I no longer stretch for the greater good and goal, but rather, afraid of falling short or given past failures, settle for whatever is within reach, which always is less than the best I can be. When and where, feeling challenged, I rise to my defense, uttering the self-justifying language of “What if…” and “If only…” When and where I, unhappy in my state of being, take little responsibility for my choices, but rather blame others or circumstance and chance, “It’s your fault!” When and where I choose immobility, having maintained my self-protective defenses for so long that I can’t see that my protection has become my prison; like a suit of armor too small that I refuse to remove for fear of being vulnerable, although I’m suffocating.
Sometimes, I confess, I prefer death, remaining in the tombs I have built. At least I know what to expect. There is no great happiness, but there are no great surprises. I relinquish a possibility of joy to retain my sense of control and security, only to rediscover that I remain uncontrollably insecure. But no matter, this “death” no longer frightens me. I’m used to it.
Yet Jesus, who, in love, will not leave me or let me remain in my tombs, calls to me, “Come out!”, into the sometimes blinding, frightening sunlight of new life of challenge and change and growth. And perhaps it is because, in my experience, I hear and must heed Jesus’ call daily that I believe, I know this labor of living in the light of his love will last my lifetime in this world, thus needing to be continued in the next.
Illustration: “Lazare, veni foras” (“Lazarus, come forth”), Salvador Dali, 1964