March 30, 2020
Between the Gospel of the man born blind and this one of Lazarus being called out of his grave after a 4-day stay, it’s amazing how these 2 Gospels speak to our present crisis. Crises don’t change over time, for the most part. Anyone born blind, or anyone who loses their sight after once seeing, they want their sight. They want to see the many beautiful parts of the world that God created from his voice. Blindness is a physical crisis where the desire to want to see does not change over the centuries. For those who are blind, I have zero capacity to tell you that you will see again in this world. But I have full confidence and the capacity to tell you that you will see the face of God. And when you look on the face of God, you will see forever the perfection of all beauty. It will be like looking at the most perfect sunset, or the incredible beauty of the Grand Canyon, times a million. The desire to see now, however, remains. With today’s Gospel, we shift the crisis from blindness to death. From the desire to see, to the desire to live. The death of Lazarus touched a lot of people. Not only 2 sisters. “And Jesus wept.” From the Lord to the entire village in deep sorrow. We had a “Lazarus” die last week from my old neighborhood of Lincoln St., a friend named Bucky Sheehan. Bucky’s unexpected death has created untold amounts of sorrow. Like Lazarus, he was a good person, a friend of Jesus, popular in the village of Lincoln St. His death is a crisis, as was the death of Lazarus. As is the death of all those we love. The crisis doesn’t change over time. From Bethany to Worcester. Anyone who dies who doesn’t make it to what we call a full life, they want to live. They want the grace and blessing of years. I’m sure the 20-something Lazarus wanted the grace of years, as did the 64-year-old Bucky Sheehan. This week death is the crisis. Death is the highest form of crisis. What St. Paul calls “our greatest enemy.” And if death is our greatest enemy, then life is our greatest friend. Death is the crisis for over 1000 people in our country dying from this sweeping, contagious virus, and many 1000’s throughout the world. “Master, the one you love is ill.” The message sent to Jesus by the two sisters. Many family members are speaking that prayer today; “Master, the one you love is ill.” They don’t want the crisis of losing a loved one too early. But our ingenuity, our capacity, and our will can only do so much in preventing death from not claiming another victim too soon. And there’s always going to be the skeptics and doubters who ask this silly question, this question of testing God we hear in the Gospel, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something – done anything – so that this man would not have died?” The evil that comes from that question is the failure to understand and know the power of God. People like that will never have Christian joy. The good that flows from that question – “Could not Jesus have done something?” – is the recognition that life is pure gift. Even for unbelievers. There’s something wonderful to be said for the gift of life right now. That question about Jesus implies that life is the highest gift. But, we should be careful about asking that question about Jesus too soon. Asking if he could have done something stupendous before he even comes into the village is an early question. Let him enter Bethany first; let him come into our village, and let’s see what he can do. Once he’s in, once he’s before the tomb of Lazarus, or anyone’s tomb, including our own, is he going to disappoint us? Is he going to fail? Is he going to leave the village the way he found it? Are his words going to fall on deaf ears that are dead ears? Ears that don’t hear any longer? The great thing about Lazarus, and the great thing about our dear Lincoln St. friend Bucky Sheehan, is not the dead ears that no longer hear. The great thing is they have spirits that do hear the voice of the one who can do something. The one who can do something about blindness, about this virus, about death. “Lazarus, come out!” The ears of Lazarus did not hear those words. His whole spirit heard, his good spirit… the spirit that was a friend of Jesus; the spirit that believed that Jesus has the power to destroy this crisis. The worst crisis we know. The crisis of death. Death is buried in the Bethany tomb. Lazarus walks out. The gift of life. I pray we don’t question whether Jesus can do something about this present crisis. He will. We just don’t know what it’s going to look like by the time he leaves the village. Like in the time of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, some live and others die. The wider picture of God’s love and presence relates more another question in the Scriptures that asks, “Who can know the mind of God?” We trust in his love and presence; we trust he can do something; we trust he can handle any crisis on any scale; and, we trust that he will draw us out of our personal tombs and deeper into his life called eternal.