|"The Resurrection of Lazarus," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.|
For the Mass of the Fifth Sunday of Lent
The readings and prayers in today’s Mass promise us our resurrection.
Through our Baptism, our Anointing in Confirmation, and our Eucharistic Communion, we receive God’s Spirit that marks us for rising from the dead.
If we choose to stay faithful by working together with the Spirit, then the Father who raised Christ from the dead will give everlasting joy and life to our earthly bodies through his Spirit.
But even with the glory of that promise, suffering still shakes us.
Even though Christ was to raise Lazarus from the dead, suffering still shook Christ so that he groaned in the spirit, and wept for Lazarus.
Today Christ called himself the Son of God while foretelling that in Lazarus death would give way for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.
Then Christ also spoke of an odd joy, telling his disciples: Lazarus has died.... I am GLAD for you that I was not there, that you may believe.
On the way to raise Lazarus, Christ met the dead man’s sister, Martha, and he spoke as God to her: I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.
He took hold of Martha’s faith, and squeezed out more than she had yet said: ... whoever believes in ME, even if he dies, will live. Do you believe this?
Telling his disciples his own glory as Son of God, telling them his gladness that they would have faith from seeing his glory that day, telling Martha his own Godhood— knowing fully his own Godly glory, and not shying to speak it into the faces of men and women, Christ still opened himself to suffering today.
And Jesus wept.
Twice today the original Greek of the Gospel says Christ groaned in the spirit inside himself.
Even though Christ is God the Son, and was there to raise Lazarus from the dead, he knows human pain, and it stabs him deeply as today’s Gospel shows.
Today’s Gospel is rich with the human feelings of Christ: his affection for his friends; his gladness for the faith of his disciples; his sorrow in the face of death.
All the same, his own Godhood, his knowledge of it, his open words of it, and his outright hunt for people’s faith in it are also lively in today’s Gospel.
True God and True Man— Christ is all; his Father sent him; he wanted people to know it.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
He wanted the crowd to believe the heavenly Father sent him.
Today in the Gospel, the heavenly Father sent him to the open mouth of death with its rot and stench.
Raising his eyes to heaven, Christ did not ask the FATHER to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Rather, Christ had already called HIMSELF the Resurrection and the Life whom the Father sent from heaven.
God-the-Resurrection-and-the-Life-in-Person stood up to a rotting corpse, and did something imperial but also laughable and insane: he shouted at a dead man, he cried out in a loud voice.
In the original Greek of the Gospel, the word for the shouting of Christ today is the same as for the shouting of the Palm Sunday crowd and the Good Friday crowd.
On Palm Sunday, the shouting was full of joyful worship: Hosanna!
On Good Friday, the shouting was full of deadly condemnation: Crucify him!
What feelings filled the shouting of Christ in today’s Gospel?
Was it the gladness he spoke of, the gladness of letting his disciples see and believe?
Did the shouting of Christ today come out of that deep place inside him that shook with pain and groaned in the spirit?
Did he shout from anger at ancient sin that brought death into our infant race, and did he shout from anger that death swallowed his friend?
If you and I claim that Christ loves us as he loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary— if we claim he loves us, mustn’t we also claim that he shouts at us when he finds us dead in sin?
What could all his feelings, his will as God, his will as man, and his shouting do for the dead, rotting eardrums of Lazarus?
Would the lifeless, stinking ears take heed?
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
If a dead man came to life in obedience to Christ, could we sinners also come to life in obedience to Christ?
In our having freely chosen to give in to our sins, perhaps we need to lay claim to the SHOUTING of Christ, so that he may have our OBEDIENCE.
Or is our version of Christ not daring enough to shout at us?
Or would we REJECT a Christ who is God and bold enough to shout at us?
And then would we shout, “Crucify him!” back at him?
Would we not prefer to be filled with his Spirit so as to shout, “Hosanna!” precisely because we saw and heard him shouting in his Godliness and his daring, shouting loudly enough to raise a rotting dead man back to life?
Christ shouts for anger, joy, and sorrow.
He is the shouting voice and word of the heavenly Father.
One prayer [the Preface] of today’s Mass will say of him:
as true man he wept for Lazarus his friend
and as eternal God raised him from the tomb,
just as, taking pity on the human race,
he leads us by sacred mysteries to new life.
If we want new life, let us hunt down sin in our lives and stop it.
We have come to the altar today to hear the God-Man shouting at us by way of the mystery of giving up for us his Sacred Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Heeding the shout of his Body and Blood, let us leave behind the dark tomb of our sins.