Today’s gospel tells of the wonderful event of Jesus calling his friend Lazarus back to life. In John’s recounting of this wondrous event there are certain phrases that tell of the close friendship Jesus had with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Jesus gets the news, “He whom you love is ill;” the message being, come quickly. When Jesus does make his way to Bethany Lazarus is already dead. Jesus is greeted with a rebuke from Lazarus’ sisters, “if you had been here my brother would not have died.” In other words, ‘where were you when we needed you?’ Jesus asked to be taken to the grave and on his way Jesus weeps; he joined his tears to those of Mary and Martha, he enters into their grief. When they get to the tomb Jesus makes a strange request, “take the stone away.” We can imagine the surprise of family and friends. Why would anyone want to open a tomb when it was already filled with the stench of corruption? But Lazarus’ friends do what they are told and roll the stone away. Jesus stands before the open hole and calls. “Lazarus come out.” To the amazement and wonder of all the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, his face wrapped with a cloth. Then we heard the final words of Jesus, ‘unbind him and let him go’.
There are so many messages for each of us in this event.
Consider the words, ‘if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ In other words where were you when we needed you? That question of Mary and Martha challenges us to reflect on whether or not we are present, we are there for spouses, family members or friends in their times of need or are we so pre-occupied with our own concerns that we are oblivious to the needs and the pain of those closest to us?
Take the phrase, “Jesus wept.” Jesus grieved for the death of Lazarus too and wasn’t afraid to show it. He was one with Mary and Martha in their pain and sorrow. Do we trust the truth that Jesus shares in our pain and sorrow, our struggles to cope with the unfairness of life? Do we remember his promise? ‘I am with you always?’
Then we go to the command of Jesus, “Take the stone away.” Do we remove the barriers in our relationships? Are we willing to roll away the stones of resentments and grudges that block any chance of reconciliation with family members or friends? Are we willing to roll away the heavy stones of prejudice or intolerance that block us from being open to the goodness and holiness of people of different faiths? Are we willing to roll away the stone of self doubt that makes us question our own worth and goodness, a stone that prevents us from seeing, ‘we are good people.’
Having removed the stone Jesus calls “Lazarus come out.” Are we willing to call others to life? Are we willing to speak encouraging, supporting words that can help family and friends out of discouragement or depression, words that can lift their spirits? St. Paul tells us, “say only the good things people need to hear, words that will really help them.’
Then we hear the final words of Jesus: “unbind him and let him go.” Let him be free, let him be himself. Are we willing to let sons and daughters, young adults be free, be themselves, find their own way, make their own mistakes? Are we willing to loose others from our expectations of them? Are we willing to let ourselves be free of the demands and the expectations of others?
During the coming week maybe we can reflect on these words and see how they touch our lives, color our relationship; the one you love is ill – you are needed. If you had been here – where were you when we needed you? Jesus wept. Am I there for those who need me, am I willing to enter into their struggles, their grief? Take the stone away. Am I willing to remove the barriers that restrict my relationships with others? Lazarus come out. Am I willing to call others to life, to say only the good things people need to hear, things that will really help them? Unbind him and let him go. Am I willing to give myself and others the freedom to be who we are meant to be, am I willing to let go of others, freeing them from my needs, my expectations?
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we live fully the life Jesus won for us by his death on the cross.