The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin     Lent
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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
March 15, 2002 Issue

Christ empowers us in Lazarus

Through this miracle, Christ summons us to do more than just watch

By Mary Beth Krainz

photo of Mary Beth Krainz
Mary Beth Krainz

Imagine the grief Jesus felt when his close friend Lazarus died (Jn 11:1-45). Then imagine what awe overtook the crowd who witnessed Jesus raise him from the dead.

When experiencing the death of loved ones, or sharing the sorrow of others bearing loss, one could easily echo the sentiments of Martha who said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died ..."

Lord, if only the doctor had found a cure for my father's heart condition or my friend's cancer, they'd still be alive ...

To Martha's comment, Jesus replied: "I am the resurrection and the life.... Do you believe this? When Martha firmly replied, "Yes, Lord, I believe ..." Jesus responded in a way well beyond her expectations by raising Lazarus.

It takes great faith to believe that God answers prayers far beyond our human expectation, especially when we cannot perceive it. It's tempting to believe that our prayers have gone unanswered.

Even Martha had doubts. When Jesus said to take away the grave stone, she protested: "Lord, it has been four days now! Surely there will be a stench!" Isn't it harder to have faith when we find ourselves or a loved one trapped in the stench of sin, or the vulnerability of illness or addiction?

Changing long term behavior that is self-destructive or harmful to others might seem impossible, just as coping with chronic physical or emotional illness seems beyond our grasp. Like Martha, we're asked to believe that God can do what's humanly impossible.

Jesus calmed Martha's doubts by reassuring her that if she believed, she would see God's glory displayed. Then he called Lazarus out of the tomb.

Likewise, when we hold fast to our faith in Jesus, something or someone, by the grace of God, is going to roll away that stone. In other words, take the smallest step towards healing, and hope dawns. Take another step, and new life begins. Persevere, and light breaks into the darkness of the tomb, as we hear Christ call our name or the name of a loved one to "Come out!"

What a powerful experience to witness a life radically changed by Christ's call to conversion. But the gospel suggests that it's not enough for us to stand around and watch. When Lazarus came forth from the tomb, Jesus told the onlookers: "Untie him ... and let him go free."

Jesus invites us to take an active role in the healing process. He asks us to support one another, removing the burial wraps of fear, suspicion, isolation, and self-judgment. Within the Christian community, freedom from bondage happens through friendship, prayer and sharing in the sacraments.

Having someone present to listen and understand is a balm for the wound of discouragement. Within families, movement towards forgiveness frees those bound by anger, while acceptance replaces alienation.

The miracle of the raising of Lazarus reveals, among other things, that Christ empowers us to become more than awestruck onlookers. Just as Jesus was present to Martha and the grief-stricken crowd, he is present to us in our grief, and weeps with us.

He also intends to raise us and our loved ones from any sort of physical or spiritual death. All he asks is that we believe, hope, persevere, and assist one another in the process already initiated by a loving and merciful God.

(Krainz is a member of St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay.)

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