WITH THE LORD THERE IS MERCY AND FULLNESS OF REDEMPTION
John’s Gospel presents to us the Raising of Lazarus, the culmination of Jesus’ Signs. It is like a trailer of the movie that is soon to follow. It is also marked with Jesus’ powerful and dramatic declaration “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
The raising of Lazarus was a sign of Christ’s power over death. He is “the life” who pulls down the impenetrable wall of death. However, while it shows Jesus’ power over physical death, it also points to Jesus’ power over spiritual death. In this vein, Saint Augustine saw the raising of Lazarus as a symbol of the sacrament of Penance. Just as burial clothes bound Lazarus, sin binds human beings. Jesus told the people to unbind the burial bands from Lazarus as he came forth from the tomb. So the Lord, through His priests, unbinds sinners from the chains of sin, from spiritual death in the sacrament of Penance. We truly experience new life, a kind of second Baptism, through this sacrament of God’s mercy.
“Everyone who sins, dies. Every man fears the death of the flesh, few the death of the soul. In regard to the death of the flesh, which without a doubt must someday come, all guard against its coming: that is the reason for their labours. Man, destined to die, labours to avert his dying; and yet man, destined to live in eternity does not labour to avoid sinning.”
Lent is a season that reminds us to labour to avoid sinning. This is the point of our Lenten penance and sacrifices: interior conversion.
The promise that God made centuries ago through Ezekiel to the people of Israel is the promise that God makes to the Church today: “I will open your graves, have you rise, and bring you back. I will put my spirit in you, that you may live.” The psalmist’s pledge is renewed for us: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” The assurance that St. Paul gave to the early church of Rome echoes through the ages to the Roman Church today: “If the Spirit of the one who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will bring life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” The call of Jesus to Lazarus is his call to the church today: “Come out (of your tomb)!” His command then is our duty now: “Untie him and let him go.”
As we approach Holy Week, let us pray that our own faith may be strengthened, so that we, like Martha, can place all our hope in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life!