Lots of ink has been spilled over the question
of whether Lazarus was in a deep coma or really dead or—
as Jesus’ critics would have said—
faking it to make Jesus look like a miracle worker.
But that doesn’t matter because it’s not the point.
The story is not factual history
but a statement of faith in the transformation
that following the Way of Jesus brings to us.
The Israelites had a history
of being tied down by conquering armies,
notably under slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon,
and the Roman occupation.
Our Jewish ancestors in faith thought and talked and prayed
in images of resurrection that hoped
for a renewal of their covenant relationship with God.
They looked forward to a revived fullness of life—
to freedom in peace
and with justice.
When Moses went to Pharaoh,
he was calling for political and religious freedom.
He called out, Let my people go!
The priest and prophet Ezekiel
puts the promise of freedom in God’s mouth
with the metaphor of rising from the grave:
I will open your graves and have you rise from them,
put my spirit in you that you may live,
settle you on your land.
It’s a vision of freedom from the Babylonian captivity.
John’s gospel speaks
to a people suffering under the oppression of Roman rule.
As with Ezekiel, it’s the metaphor of rising from the grave.
As with Moses, it’s the call to freedom that Jesus speaks to Lazarus:
Untie him and set him free!
Biblical scholar John Pilch points out
that resurrection means a transformation of life,
not the restoration of life to a corpse.
Following Jesus does not abolish death; it transcends it.
We live in a world that seems to be caught up in death.
We kill each other in acts of murder, execution, war,
terrorism, drunk driving, domestic violence.
We kill our planet
with extravagant lifestyles and waste and pollution.
We watch people die from poverty, hunger, homelessness,
disease, abuse, war, discrimination, unsafe working conditions.
Even in this country of freedom and plenty,
we kill ourselves through suicide, drug and alcohol abuse,
smoking, overwork, stress, bad eating habits,
and physical neglect.
As Karl Rahner said,
“There are so many little deaths along the way
that it doesn’t matter which is the last one.”
When we look at our lives, we can see
that we all have died those “little deaths” along the way.
We can also see that we have transcended them
and been raised to new life.
It happens every day,
in one way or another, to person after person.
A few months ago Tom & Mary Jean helped a Toledo family
that was dying one of those little deaths.
They had moved to Toledo
and needed help until the first check came in.
Mary Jean and Tom found resources
for food and clothes for this couple and their children,
and you generous folks of Holy Spirit voted
to pay their rent for that month.
The family transcended that “little death.”
They were raised to new life.
On the first of every month Julie shows up
with boxes of household goods for UStogether—
and those refugees settling here in Toledo
are raised to new life.
Sallie’s son Zak found a job, after nearly a year off work.
He’s raised out of a deep funk to new life.
I remember back in 1972, when a car accident
put me in the hospital with five breaks in my vertebrae.
While I lay there flat on my back without moving for five weeks,
not knowing if I’d ever walk again,
I felt like life was over.
But the experimental treatment worked—a miracle for me—
and I was changed—
never the same again, a new path, raised to new life.
If we look around, it’s easy to see
those “little deaths” happening to people.
And it’s easy to see when the transformation happens.
There’s the joy in the hope for change
that comes to people marching and demonstrating.
There’s the love that glows
when a homebound person gets a visit from a friend.
There’s the energy that comes to a retiree
who escapes from being buried in a job,
from heading into the garden after a cold and blustery winter,
from working through the breakup of a relationship.
Whenever and wherever we see someone
in the midst of one of these little deaths,
whether they’re buried by oppression or hopelessness
or pain or loss,
we are the ones called
to be the hands and heart of God reaching out to them,
the voice calling out,
“Untie my people. Let them go. Set them free!”
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Holy Thursday, April 13, 5:30 p.m. Mass of the Lord's Supper
Easter Mass of the Resurrection, Saturday, April 15, 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006