We are all eager to find love, but as a young widow remarked: “Someone should have told me that love plants the seed of grief, and the deeper the love the deeper the grief. Even if we never say it aloud, we come to know that love readies us for weeping. Our first kiss and our first tear are connected. Our Gospel today graphically emphasizes the grieving Jesus and the God who brought forth life from death. Lazarus was in the tomb for four days and then emerged alive by the power of God’s love. “Lazarus come out,” Jesus demanded and he did, proving that God’s love is a forever-love---for now and for all time. His love is powerful enough to soften grief and reassure our faith that death is never the end, but a passage into forever-life.
It has been many years since my father died suddenly on my eleventh birthday. Even now, so many years later, it is a bitter-sweet time that triggers a blend of sadness and joy. Every “happy birthday” greeting brings back memories of that long-ago day that just won’t disappear. Yes, time has softened the impact, but I’ve come to realize that all the birthdays of my life will be a mixture of joy and sadness.
Grief is a wild ride. People may recognize its images, predict its stages, and schedule its duration, but those are people who are not grieving. They have the luxury of being observers, not participants. When the loss of a loved one impacts your life, you are in grief territory---forever. Grief experiences allow us to better understand the depth of grief experienced by Jesus in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ love for Lazarus would not allow him to be just a kind observer. No, his level of grief brought tears and sadness.
Scripture reminds us: “And Jesus wept.” This shortest of statements describes one of the most moving scenes in the Gospels. We encounter the Jesus who loves as we do, suffers as we do, and cries as we do, and who understands our loving, suffering and crying. Jesus wept for Lazarus, but he also raised Lazarus to life. His command penetrated the tomb, and Lazarus hobbled out from darkness into light. In this Gospel, we encounter the human Jesus and the divine Son of God.
Today that same command is demanded of us, “Come out!” Come out now! Now is the time for leaving behind whatever threatens to entomb us. Come out from whatever dims the spirit: from indifference and injustice, from material preoccupations that blur spiritual vision, from worry that stifles faith, and from hopelessness that erases trust. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has made it possible for us to be released from whatever binds us.
To wake the dead is a testimony to power that is practically uncontainable. If not stopped, such power would change the established order for all time. It did 2000 years ago and it continues to challenge our 21st century living. Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” and his love embraces both grief and consolation. With that knowledge, we continue our journey through life with confidence knowing that our living and our dying are in the hands of a weeping Jesus.
~ Deacon Wilson Shierk