Lazarus Back to Life

premium website builders“Why is there a need for three Scrutinies? We hear the same thing every Lent! Is not one Scrutiny enough?” A practical answer to satisfy the question is practice makes perfect. This concept of repetition works to fortify our faith. Each time we practice faith activities, we are able to see more clearly the Christian message behind each act of faith. But the more important answer to the question is, the scrutiny gospel stories present the true identity of Jesus as the Living Water, as the Light, and as the Resurrection and Life. These are the identities of Jesus that should be reflected in the life of every Christian believer.

For today’s final Scrutiny, the Gospel is about bringing Lazarus back to life. Martha professes her faith, “Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In a similar way, the Elect have trusted Jesus and are prepared to make their own profession of faith.

After hearing this Gospel, some may ask, “How can we say that Jesus is ‘the first born of the dead’ when Lazarus was resurrected prior to Jesus?” First and foremost, Lazarus was not resurrected! Lazarus was only resuscitated. Lazarus came back to life from death exactly as he was before, and he will experience death again. Jesus, when he was resurrected, rose in a glorious body. The resurrection of Jesus carried our humanity forward to glory, a place where humanity had never been before and would never have to experience death again. In other words, resuscitation returns us to what we were before and Resurrection takes us to where we have never been. Too often our hearts yearn for Resurrection, but we settle for resuscitation.

The raising of Lazarus foreshadows the most powerful sign of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. These last two Sundays and today, the Gospel of John guides us (and our Elect who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil) towards the true identity of Christ: The great “I AM.” As in, I AM the living water, I AM the light of life, and I AM the life and resurrection.

Do you recall the questions of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, to the man born blind, and, today, to Martha? The questions were: “Do you believe” or “Do you have faith?” Faith is a gift from God. We should not lose the gift of faith. It is our obligation to make the gift of faith grow in our hearts. Faith should become part of our life. In bad times and good times, we should believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and want to do whatever he wants us to do. That is what faith is about.

Let us picture ourselves being there in the conversation between Jesus and Martha. Martha complained: “Lord, if you were here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha responded, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Then 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?”

Bible scholars say that this passage strongly teaches that if anyone has faith in Jesus, he will share in his life and resurrection in the present moment of this life. In other words, we do not need to wait until the next life. If we believe in him, we are sharing Jesus’ divine life, which is called grace.

Take note that Jesus did not ask the Samaritan woman, the blind man, or Martha if they understood his words. Rather, Jesus asked, “Do you believe in me?” We often say the words of Martha, “Yes Lord, I believe.” But when difficulties come about, that belief, our faith, fades. Amidst all the hardships, tests, and pain Jesus tells us, “You have to believe in me! I am the living water; I am the light of the world, I am the life and resurrection! Whoever believes in me will never die!”

A tomb is a place of darkness, a place of no hope. Jesus went to that dark place, where there is no hope, to call Lazarus out. This is the biggest sign of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery. We will witness in the coming days how Jesus suffered and died, buried in his own tomb. He rose from death and walked out of his own tomb. He is the life of the world. Only he can save us from darkness and death. Like the blind man, in last Sundays’ gospel, we sometimes live in the darkness of unbelieving. Like Lazarus, we are hopeless with our human condition; all have to die. However, Jesus’ death destroyed our death, and his resurrection has restored our life: that is our faith, the mystery of faith that we profess during the Holy Mass.

Jesus calls each of us to come out of our own tomb. Our own tomb may be resentment, selfishness, ignorance, greed, or pride, etc. We are not free when we still enclose ourselves in those hopeless tombs. We have to come out of those tombs to meet Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in the Eucharist. One sacrament brings us to the light, and the other gives us a share of his life and resurrection. Let us all do our best to live in the resurrected life of Jesus by always being in the state of grace!

~ Reflection by Fr Michael Gazzingan