Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, April 6, 2014
First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm: Psalm 130
Second Reading: Romans 8:6-11
Gospel: John 11:1-45

What a strange picture of Jesus in this Gospel.  Remember the Jesus of several miracles ago?  The one who instructed people to go and tell no one?

Here we see a Jesus who seems overly aware of the impact of his actions.  It's as if we're seeing a man who is aware of his legacy and how he'll be seen--a man who is trying to control the story.  And of course, we see foreshadowing in this story, foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ, which we'll be celebrating in two weeks.

Notice that Jesus waits until Lazarus is good and dead before he appears to comfort the sisters and perform a miracle.  It's as if he wants no dispute about the miracle.  Unlike the past few miracles when Jesus raised people who had only been dead for a few hours, here he waits 4 days.  There's no doubt about what he's done once he's raised Lazarus from the dead.  We can't easily imagine that Lazarus has been faking his death for 4 days.  Even if Lazarus wanted to help Jesus fake a miracle and put on a good show, it's hard to imagine that he'd willingly submit to being sealed in a tomb for 4 days.

As we watch the world around us gear up for Easter, we'll see a certain number of Jesus detractors.  We'll see people who want to explain away the resurrection.  The liturgical calendar gives us this story of Lazarus to return us to one of the main themes of our religion--we believe in (and are called to practice) resurrection.

And why is the idea of resurrection so hard in our fallen world?  Do we not know enough people who have turned their lives around?  Think of all the people who have risen again out of the ashes of drug addiction, madness, or domestic turmoil.  Why are we so hesitant to believe in miracles?

Although writing about a different miracle, Wendell Berry has said expressed my idea more eloquently than I can today.  In his essay, "Christianity and the Survival of Creation," he says, "Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine--which was, after all, a very small miracle.  We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes" (this wonderful essay appears in his wonderful book Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community).

The world has far too many cynics.  Christians are called to be different.  Choose your favorite metaphor:  we're to be leaven in the loaf, the light of the world, the city on a hill, the salt (or other seasoning) that provides flavor, the seed that pushes against the dirt.  Each day, practice hope.  Each day, practice resurrection.

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