Today’s reflection is for the 5th Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
Jesus was with his disciples when he received a message about a man that he knew, Lazarus, from Bethany. If I didn’t know anything else about Jesus, this one message that Jesus received would tell me all I needed to know. I have lots of friends, and if a friend of mine were ill, I would hope that someone might let me know. But I wonder, would the person who let me know say, “Stephen, the one you love is ill.” Sadly, probably not. But that’s exactly what Mary and Martha said, “Master, the one you love is ill.” To be honest, I don’t know if anyone has ever referred to people around me, even my family, as those “whom I love.” Certainly I do, but do they and others know it?
Again and again throughout today’s Gospel we hear on the lips of others that Jesus loved. From Mary and Martha we hear that Jesus loved Lazarus, from the Gospel writer himself when St. John writes, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” and from the Jews, after Jesus wept, they said, “See how he loved him.” Jesus has a whole lot of love, and is clearly recognized as a person who loves by all around him. That’s the kind of guy I want to be too.
One might be inclined to think that “Jesus loved” Lazarus because he healed him and raised him from the dead, but that is not at all how it went in the Gospel. ALL claims that Jesus loved Lazarus came well before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In other words, whether or not Jesus ever heals Lazarus and raises him from the dead does not change what we know about Jesus’ love for him, nor did it change what they knew, namely, that Lazarus was loved by God–not forsaken, but loved, from his first breath to his last. I bet that changed the way that Lazarus lived his life.
I think it’s very important to know we are loved. We who believe, should be entirely convinced of God’s great love for us, but we should also be well aware that others love us too, and we should make it clear that others are loved by us. I know I have work to do in this regard. I want my sons to know that come hell or high water, they are loved by their dad. When they get A’s I love ’em. When they succeed I love ’em. And when they fail I love them still. I hope they know that. I need to do a better job.
There seems always someone around, however, that wants to put into doubt the love that we have for others, or the love that Jesus has for us. Even as Jesus approached Bethany, the scoffers said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” But the truth is that regardless of God’s great power, or maybe because of it, God willed that all living things should die. Death is not a question of God’s power or a lack of love, but rather an expression of both. St. Ephraem the Syrian wrote, “Our Lord was trampled on by death, and in His turn trod out a way over death…Death slew and was slain. Death slew the natural life; and the supernatural Life slew him.” We will indeed all die, but not all who die will taste death. (1COR 15:51)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment.” (C.C.C. 1007) For more from the Catechism on death and resurrection, click here.
This COVID-19 outbreak, and the now thousands who have died have me thinking a lot about my death and the uncertainty of life. The truth is that we do not know the hour that we will be called home by God. Whether by a virus, a car accident, or a natural disaster, we know neither the day nor the hour. As Anselm of Canterbury wrote, “Nothing is more certain than death, nothing more uncertain than its hour.” And for Lazarus, he was called out of the grave and resuscitated–he was brought back to life by a miracle of God, but eventually he would die, as all things do.
As I watch the news, and still go to work, I am not irresponsible with my actions. I wear gloves and a mask as I feed children and their families, I use hand sanitizer and wash my hands, but I do not live in fear. I look both ways before crossing the street, and I mostly drive the speed limit, but I am not anxious nor afraid, because I know that “Jesus is the resurrection and the life,” and I am beloved to him. I know that he loves me, am convinced that when the Saints in heaven talk to Jesus about me they never refer to me as Stephen, they say to Jesus, “Master, the one you love is…”
I’m loved by God and some day, in some way, God will call me home to him. He will say, “Stephen, come out!” I can’t wait to hear his command, but until then, I’ve got work to do. I’ve got elementary school kids that need food, a wife that needs help around the house, children that need to be guided and loved, school work to do, blogs to write, and sermons to preach. My prayer is that I’m allowed just one more day to get it right. I’ll do better today than yesterday. I promise. I’m loved.
For YouTube video presentations of this and other reflections, please click here.