As a preview to Easter week and a timely parallel to the COVID-19 events we are currently facing, all of today’s readings tell us of death yielding to a new way of life. In the first reading [EZ 37:12-14], the prophet Ezekiel urges the exiled Israelite people in Babylon to look beyond the siege and destruction of Jerusalem to a new future, when God’s Spirit will restore their nation. Just like we need to believe today during these unknown times, God promises them a new life and they will be filled with the Spirit of God.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans [ROM 8:8-11], he reminds them of the power of God’s Spirit that will give life to their mortal bodies. St. Paul implies that this new life is not something that will start only on the last day, but is taking effect in their lives now. And finally, in John’s Gospel [JN 11:1-45], we have the story of Lazarus being raised from death to life. By doing this, Jesus proves the truth: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
We know from our Catholic faith that there are many requests of Jesus to perform miracles. Often times human beings want the easy way out; we don’t want to suffer the consequences of our bad choices. However, many of us acknowledge that we learn more from mistakes than success. Without learning from our errors, we have no foundation to build upon.
In today’s Gospel, it seems that at first glance Martha is on the verge of complaining to Jesus. She says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died.” But Martha knows that the path to a personal miracle is not a one way street. The recipient, be it the person who is directly affected or that person’s loved ones, needs to come to a realization ahead of time. If we look back at the Gospels, we see a pattern of awareness, grace and dependence on God’s will. The centurion whose servant was ill (MT 8:5-13), the father of the possessed boy (MT 17:14-23), and the synagogue leader whose daughter was believed to have died (MT 9:18-26), all came to an awareness that they could do nothing of their own accord. So too with Martha who was a person of deep faith. She states to Jesus, “I know that God will give You whatever You ask of Him.” When Jesus identifies himself as the Resurrection and the Life, Martha echoes the glorious words spoken by Peter at Caesarea Philippi: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” She is not asking for the easy way out; rather, she chooses the path of belief that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.
The raising of Lazarus is truly the deed of a miracle worker. Did Jesus have the power to turn stones into bread in the desert [MT 4:1-11]? Of course he did; but if He had given in to the temptation of the devil to use His God-given gifts for His own personal use, He would not be the Messiah. All the actions of Jesus are so that God may be glorified, not to glorify Himself. Today, more so during the Coronavirus pandemic, we are invited to acknowledge Jesus’ power over death, evidenced in the raising of Lazarus. Using that image as a promise of eternal life, let us find hope and confidence in Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life.