This week we have the powerful Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This Gospel is laden with different images and themes. We have Martha’s powerful profession of faith, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” The image of Jesus weeping that shows us Jesus’ great love and deep humanity. We have Lazarus in a tomb for four days and Jesus telling him, “Lazarus, come out!” And, of course, we have Lazarus walking out of the tomb still all bound up, and Jesus telling those around him to take the burial cloths off Lazarus. Too many to reflect on so let’s stay with Lazarus.
Can you imagine being in a tomb for four days? Can you imagine the stench that Martha spoke of when Jesus said to take the stone away? Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Lazarus to rise and walk out of that tomb alive but still bound up? And then imagine for a moment what it felt like for Lazarus to have those around him help to unbind him? Initially, it might be easy for us to say no I can’t imagine any of that. But, I think if we reflect on our lives more deeply, we could easily imagine it.
How many tombs have each of us inhabited in our lives? It might be the tomb of low self-esteem that keeps you from truly being who God calls you to be and so you find yourself trying to be like others instead of yourself. It could be the tomb of being disconnected from another and using all your energy to avoid this person so that you don’t have to talk or heal the relationship. Maybe you’re caught in the tomb of murmuring and find yourself grumbling to others in community. The tomb of unworthiness can be another we find ourselves in. When we live in this tomb, we can find ourselves comparing ourselves to others and always coming up short or putting them down to feel better about ourselves. Of course, when we live in these tombs for too long there is a horrible stench that pervades us and all of those around us. This odor is not the beautiful odor of good zeal that Benedict talks about but bad zeal that does not lead us to God or others.
Yes, we all inhabit tombs in our lives. Maybe we inhabit them for a day, a week, a month, or a lifetime. Maybe we inhabit more than one tomb at a time. But Jesus tells us that we do not have to live in these tombs. Yes, Jesus tells us that we will rise on the last day but we are also called to rise each day, in the here and now, to new life. It is not an easy thing to do because even though our tombs aren’t fun, they are familiar. And, yet, Jesus calls each of us to come out. When we have the courage to walk out of these tombs, we will need a new courage. We will need the courage to allow others to help unbind us from the burial cloths that have held us captive. We will also need to look around community for others who are trying to rise from their tombs and we will need to go and help unbind them as well.
We all have a tomb that we live in, at least one. Which tomb is the tomb that is hurting you the most? (give a moment for them to think) Do you have the courage to stand up and walk out of it? As we journey closer to Easter, let us each stand up and rise from a tomb that we have inhabited so that we might more joyfully greet the risen Christ on Easter morn.