March 25, 2023, Lazarus, Some Thoughts

Some folks will get this, some won’t.

When we read the Story of Lazarus we have an idea of what happened 2000 years ago.  When we slowly and prayerfully read it in the setting of our own life today, it might offer some insight into what is happening in our life now.

A traditional way of praying the Gospels, and one that is especially appreciated by Pope Francis, is to see ourselves in each of the characters in the Story. When we do this sort of prayer, we have to be sure that we let the Story speak to us in its own  way, and not just see the Story as we have always seen it. The Spirit may lead us to new insights. In the Story we could see ourselves perhaps as Jesus, as Lazarus’ sisters, as members of the crowd, and as Lazarus. Each character might offer us different thoughts.

Were we to imagine ourselves as Lazarus, what might we see? Perhaps we are given the wisdom, or even the courage, to look at the dark places in our life when we felt lost, abandoned, terrified, maybe despairing because of what was going on or had happened. Maybe a failed or failing relationship, a damaging habit or addiction, the complicated pain of divorce, the death of someone close to us, an illness or injury. Who knows what the Spirit will help us see. These things can be very practical. It might be the memories of a terrifying situation that we were caught in and were terribly afraid, maybe did things we never thought we would ever do, and somehow unexpectedly survived. Along with the feeling of exhilaration at having survived whatever it was, come the powerful memories that never really leave us, and which complicate our life and relationships.

Or it might be the difficult journey of coming to realize that we are not who people think we are, and we feel we are living in a way trying to please others but is not who we really are. We see tragedies of this happening all around us. The fear of rejection, the loneliness and suffering this causes cannot be imagined by others, well meaning as they might be, but only experienced by those living with it. The suffering, especially with our younger brothers and sisters, can be unimaginable.

Then there is Jesus. He came/comes among us as the living love of Our Father. He showed strong feelings when he faced the death of Lazarus. This reminds us that when we are suffering, God also is suffering. In some way, when we let him, Jesus is in our life helping us to deal with whatever is going on in us.

Jesus calls, “Lazarus, come out!”. Lazarus comes out. As we look back on our difficult experiences, we may see that somehow we got through them. We may even have an awareness of God being with us. For some a good way to describe our feelings then is like Lazarus in a dark, dank, smelly closed tomb, bound tightly, blind, angry, not knowing what is going on with us, frightened, lost. We may have begun unhealthy habits to help us cope, or even have taken the step to bring a permanent end to our pain and suffering.

In the Story Jesus tells the bystanders, “Untie him and let him go”. As we look back on our own situation we might be aware that any healing we have experienced somehow involves other people in our life, perhaps even, or especially, animals, our pets. We might noticed God happening in our life in ways we never imagined, or even felt that we did not deserve. Such strong events bring with them so many different feelings that are often overwhelming. As people and others have helped us in our life, the Story reminds us to be alert to God asking our help in the lives of others around us. Sometimes we might know this, other times we might not.

Every one of us is writing our own story as we go along on our journey. It is worthwhile to ask for the gift of recognizing God being God in our life, to allow ourselves to be open to God’s Spirit as we travel, since others perhaps unknown to us need the gifts God gives us. The people in our life are important. We might ask the grace and wisdom, perhaps even the courage, to try to be God’s love with them, perhaps help roll the stone away from their tomb and help untie them, something that is especially difficult these days.

The Lazarus Story is not only about something that happened a long time ago, but when we let it, it offers wisdom and insight to what is happening in our life now, and perhaps might suggest a new depth of meaning.   Just sayin .  .