5th Sunday of Lent; the Grammar of Resurrection

There is more to life than being well fed and having family, friends and nice things.  If our life in this world never progresses beyond what we can touch and see, we might be described as people in their graves.  Now, these graves might seem to be quite comfortable, but just ask Lazarus how comfortable his grave was, bound from head to foot.

Jesus shares the pain of the grave and of loss, and yet He seems, as Martha and Mary point out to Him, to have allowed Lazarus to die.  Yet, His agenda is other than ours.  Jesus will raise Lazarus to be a sign of His own resurrection and the new life meant to be experienced by those of us who follow Him.

God wishes us to come out of our graves and to be reborn in the world with the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  Coming out of a dark place is painful at first to the eyes and limbs that have not moved much for a period of time are weak until the muscles are exercised and grow stronger.  So sadly, some people, even some who call themselves Catholic, resent and resist coming out of their graves.  They are disturbed that God is calling them to come forth, to experience life with the eyes of faith!

In 1860 Church officials gathered in Lourdes to discuss the apparitions of our Lady of Lourdes; one official said, “It can’t be our Lady because she spoke bad grammar: you can’t say ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’”. After a pause, an older and wiser official said, “I’m not so sure; it seems to run in the family, after all Jesus said to Martha, I am the resurrection and the life”.

Jesus defies the grammar with which we try to manage reality. The resurrection is God breaking the limitation of our calculated life, giving hope beyond what we can see and touch, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds. This type of resurrection is welcomed by those who find themselves restless in this world. Such persons are not satisfied with living in a grave.  They cry out to God and discover that there is a richer, fuller purpose to life when lived as a disciple of Jesus.

But beware: this resurrection is deadly danger for both Jesus and for Lazarus. Read on in John’s gospel and you will find that the authorities decided to kill Lazarus as well, because on account of him many Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in Him. The same danger could exist for those of us who chose to follow Jesus.

The Resurrection is not about a life in this world with nothing but happy endings, but about the triumph of the Crucified One who removes the terror of the grave and dispenses with the restrictions of the grave clothes and replaces them with a life of faith.

Fr. Tom