The Raising of Lazarus – It Took Everything In Me Not To Laugh At Mass Today

I am not irreverent, and I love this true Gospel story!  Moreover, I have a very special love for Martha and Mary, and Lazarus too, and I pray to them daily when I pray the Litany of the Saints at the end of my Rosary. (Yes, I have added their names along with several other favorite biblical figures and canonized saints.) So, why was I making every effort (successfully, I must add) not to burst into laughter as the Gospel from John 11:1-45 was being proclaimed at Mass today?

Let me point out just a few things that seem almost comical, come to think of it – rich though they are with profound theological meaning:

Jesus says: “This illness is not to end in death.” But Lazarus dies and is locked in a tomb!

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained two days in the place where he was.” Instead of hurrying to his side, he lingers, not one, but two days!

“Let us go to Judea,” Jesus says, so they disciples reply: “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” You call him Rabbi -Teacher, Master- but you question him as if he knew nothing?

Jesus answered: “Are there not twelve hours in a day? –as if implying that one could slip in and out of Judea unseen, at night, but then he adds: “But if one walks at night, he stumbles…” So, will you slip in and out secretly by day or by night?

Thomas says: “Let us also go to die with him.” That-a boy! Die with the Master – as if the Master weren’t in control, the same Master who just stated: “I am glad for you that I was not there [when Lazarus died], that you may believe.” Guess that didn’t reassure Thomas.

I can barely contain the laughter by now and have a HUGE grin on my face the whole time! But it gets bigger still!

“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to greet him; but Mary sat at home.” There she goes again: Mary just sits there, as she did in the other Martha-Mary passage we are so familiar with, leaving the worrying and talking to Martha!

In a strong show of faith, Martha says: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you… I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God…” But minutes later, when Jesus asks that the stone before the tomb be removed, she says: “Lord, by now there is a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Christ could have well shaken his head: “Martha, Martha…”, but he simply says: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” I’ll say it: Martha, Martha, do you believe he is the Christ or not?!

My love for Martha and Mary and Lazarus, and my utter, unequivocal, irrevocable love for Jesus makes me want to laugh out loud with joy as I witness once again how Jesus deals with us and handles our doubts and senseless responses. But I contain myself and simply smile away, from ear to ear, as the long passage is nearly over, and I hear the priest say: “’Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out…” Didn’t Jesus say some 40 verses ago that ‘This illness is not to end in death’?

Funny how Jesus sees and says things quite differently than you and I.

Amazingly awesome –and I do use the word in its proper sense– how God works among us; how he makes sense and gives meaning to the apparently nonsensical, while showing how senseless and nonsensical some of our views and stances can be. 

What appears to be deadly may not kill you in the end – like certain penances, sacrifices, rigors, privations, and forms of self-denial and chastity and self-control. Yet, what appears to be harmless, on the other hand, may kill you in the end – bringing about that slow inner death and the final damnation that has no perceptible stench here on earth.

What appears to be hopeless might still be brought to live, if God intervenes for the glory of his name and the good of souls: he can bring the dead back to life if he wants to. And that’s exactly what he wants to do!

When God “delays”, one need not worry: God knows what he’s up to. He’s God, the Master Teacher, the only true Know-It-All. Trust him.

For God, night and day are all the same: he is the Light! Walk with him and you will not be disturbed, whether in the pitch dark of night or in the exposing light of day.

Go out and meet Christ when he bids you so; sit and wait till he comes if he so instructs. Yes, come… or wait. Knowing when to do what takes discernment and that wisdom that comes from God to those who pray for it regularly.

Believe. Believe against all odds. Believe God, that is. Believe that he has the power and the will to make things happen for our good. Believe without hesitation -especially in moments of difficulty and struggle and sorrow- that God will do what he knows is best, when his hour has come.

Yes, Jesus sees and says and does things quite differently than you and I see and say and do things.

The raising of Lazarus read today –in preparation for the not-so-distant Easter Triduum culminating in rising of Christ Jesus from the dead– is a great reminder that God does the impossible – in his own way and according to his own timetable.

So, I join my voice to that of the Psalmist whose words full of conviction and faith we recited today:

“I trust in the Lord;

my soul trusts in his word.”

(Psalm 130)

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