Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. We are two weeks from Easter Sunday but already, the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead gives us a preview of what lies at the heart of Christian faith, namely the resurrection. Most of you who read this probably believe in life after death but I’m sure we all have asked ourselves questions like ‘is it really true? Will my life continue after I die or is it lights out?’ In past times of greater certainties we took faith for granted but now we question and wonder far more which is good.
Our faith stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. To be Christian is to wager everything on this claim because he either rose from the dead or didn’t. There is no in-between. If he didn’t rise from the dead then neither will we. If he did rise from the dead then everything changes and everything is possible. Yet our faith in Jesus is about far more than belief in life after death. It is just as much about belief in life before death as well.
Jesus describes his mission as being about life. He claims that ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). He describes himself as ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35), ‘the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25) and that ‘my words are spirit and they are life’ (John 6:63). John wrote his Gospel ‘so that believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31) and that ‘in him was the life of all’ (John 1:4). Then there is the raising of Jarius’ daughter (Matt. 9:18ff) and the raising of the son of the grieving widow (Luke 7:11ff). Here today we have the raising of Lazarus. Jesus Christ restores life, gives life and creates new life. This is what only he can do as Son of God and this is why we believe in him.
Yet, notice the way he accomplishes this in human existence. As God, he did not remain aloof from the reality of human death and suffering. He became part of it and wept because of it. In the Gospel today Jesus cries because his friend is dead. It is one of three times in the Gospels when Jesus weeps, the other two being over Jerusalem and during his agony in the garden. Our Lord cries and is moved to tears. Most of all, in order to give life to us, he must first lose his own life and know death himself. This he did willingly, out of love for humanity. He conquered death in order to give everlasting life and promises that gift of life to all of us who believe in him both now and in the future.
So if there is something in us that is sick or dead, let us go out like Martha to meet Jesus directly and bring his attention to that which needs fixing, healing, mending and raising – in ourselves, in our communities, in the Church and in the world. Our God is the Lord of life. He loves life, creates life and restores it. With him now we have life and with him in the future, life eternal.