Lazarus, Come out

Remember how hard it was three years ago? We couldn’t go out, couldn’t visit friends, we were having trouble dealing with all of the various restrictions. So, we turned to the one thing that could bring us comfort and consolation and companionship. We turned to binge watching miniseries.

Admit it, we are not about judging here. We would watch one after another. What was great was that you really got to know the characters, they became familiar and relatable, they became family. From one episode to the next we got to know more and more about the main characters and new characters would step in for a show or two and then leave. It was almost like real life.

Over the past five weeks I have begun to feel as though our Sunday readings were sort of like a miniseries. Jesus is, of course, the main character and week after week we have been introduced to a minor character here and there but the story line is consistent and progressive. We briefly meet Peter at the transfiguration, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man blind from birth and, today, Lazarus and his two sisters. In each case, Jesus is the principal protagonist. He guides, corrects, inspires and demands our attention but above all He has a message of hope and love.

Think about the events from the past few episodes in this Lenten miniseries. Five weeks ago, it all started with Jesus versus Satan, good versus evil, the love for God versus the love for self. Then comes the story of Jesus and His transfiguration. Followed by one of my favorite episodes, the Samaritan woman at the well.

Each new episode comes with great drama and intrigue. Why was the woman at the well, what was up with all those husbands? Last week we met the man who was given sight by Jesus and this week we meet Lazarus and his sisters.

Such a great story line, one that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Not to give too much away, but next week is the ultimate triumphant high of the series followed by an incredible low. Not to give too much away, especially for those that have not seen this series, there is a twist and surprise ending that you do not want to miss. If you know the Easter ending do not tell those that don’t, we wouldn’t want to ruin that surprise season finale, but I can say that it is life changing.

What we have to be careful of, as with all miniseries, is not to get too caught up in the story. What we have to do is to try to stay focused on the message. There were so many interesting and intricate elements in these readings, but the fact is that the actual message is very simple. We were not supposed to get hung up on the height of the temple roof from which Jesus was to hurl himself, or where Peter thought that he was going to get three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The point could be found in the simplest of phrases.

Week one we were to focus on Jesus’ response to His temptations, “Get away from me Satan”. Week two He told us to, “Rise up and don’t be afraid”. Week three He said, “I’m Thirsty”, and not just for water. Last week Jesus said to the man blind, “you have seen him”. In all of these responses the message was similar; Love the Lord your God as He loves you, do not ever be afraid for I am with you, I am standing right before you.

Today the story just gets better. During his travels Jesus had made friends with a man in Bethany named Lazarus and his two sisters. Mary, the younger sister adored Jesus. Whenever He would come to visit, she would follow Him around like a lost puppy. She would sit at His feet, anoint them with oils and dry them with her hair. Martha, the older sister, was a bit more practical and a bit more reserved. She would make the house ready, fix the meals but loved Him nonetheless.

As the story goes, Lazarus gets sick. The sisters immediately send word to Jesus, who takes His time coming. By the time that He arrives Lazarus had died and had been in the tomb for four days. The sisters were glad to see Jesus but were grief stricken at the loss of their brother.

While all of this is compelling, we cannot lose sight of what Jesus says. He asks that the stone be rolled away and calls out to His friend, “Lazarus come out”. Sure, there was a little bit more to it than that, and he could have mentioned that Lazarus should take off the wrappings and cords that bound him, but the message was so simple and profound. “Lazarus come out”. Jesus called for his friend to come out from that which was holding him back. Come out of that which is troubling him. Come out from all of those things that had buried him. Come out into the light and see who it is that is calling.

Lazarus had been dead in the tomb for four days. The death that the Gospel speaks of is similar to death that is referred to in the first reading. “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, Oh my people I will put my spirit in you that you might live.”

This was the simple message from today’s episode; “So that you might live.” In the Gospel Jesus is calling Lazarus from this grave, He is calling all of us from this grave. “Thus says the Lord God, Oh my people, I will open the graves and have you rise from them”. No matter what that “grave” might be, rise from the grave of loneliness, rise from the grave of sorrow, rise from the grave of addictions or the grave of personal loss. Today’s message is both a calling and a promise.

The difference between this miniseries and all of those others that we binge watched three years ago is that this one speaks to our hearts, to our life, to our resurrection.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time in retreat with our four confirmation students. Let me start by saying that these are four of the most amazing young women that you will ever meet. We took some time this weekend, and discussed who they were and who it was that Jesus was calling. They offered their perspectives, and their insights will impress you. If you have the chance, come to next week’s pancake breakfast and meet them in person. They will be the ones cooking and serving the meals. More like Martha than Mary, don’t expect scented perfumes and a foot bath, that is reserved for Holy Thursday.

This Lenten miniseries only has two weeks left. Take some time and consider these episodes, these profound messages. We have communion services most days this and next week with Holy Hour on Monday and Adoration on Thursday. All of these services are listed in your TV guide … I mean your Sunday’s bulletin.

Over the next two weeks take a moment and think about these simple messages; the Lord loves you, He is thirsty for you and is standing right in front of you … so, Lazarus come out.

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die.

JN 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
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.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

March 26, 2023

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