This week we read the story of Lazarus and we touch on the central mystery: Life
Our readings (Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45) talk about God bringing life where life is thought to be impossible.
Jesus came after everyone thought it was too late for Him to do anything. I find that trials often go on longer than we thought reasonable, and we have a tendency to wonder why God doesn’t act sooner. Jesus teaches us that the wait is part of something greater happening.
Jesus talks with Martha about Lazarus rising. Martha is thinking of the resurrection at the end. Jesus tell her that new life is now. If Jesus is at work in us, we are already participating in new life. It is one thing to survive, to be biologically alive. Jesus tells us there is something greater. Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus says something worth special note, “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).”
Some people believe that Christianity is about living a diminished, constricted life that is all about Thou Shalt Not’s so that a harsh and judging God will reward us with heaven afterward. No, no, no! If that is what they learned they did not learn Christianity. Jesus gives us a more abundant life on earth, and if we accept that life, we are open to the abundant afterlife. Christianity contends that a materialistic life, a life dedicated to power, pleasure, wealth and fame is a diminished life, and when God says no to something, it’s because that something would interfere with us finding that fullness of life. We read in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, ‘that all may be one…as we are one” (John 71:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason. For He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and in the union of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et Spes #24).”
The essence of the Gospel is the gift of self. The Lord gives Himself to us completely, not even withholding the last drop of His blood. He invites us and enables us to receive Him and give ourselves in return, not that He needs or even could benefit from the gift, but that we might have the fullness of life and joy (see John 17:13). Everything about Christianity, every aspect of our belief and practice, is about receiving that gift from Jesus and giving ourselves to Him in return. To do it, we must follow His teachings, but we cannot do it without His grace. It is for us to go deeper and deeper into life with Jesus so that we can live this more abundant life, and that will enable us to witness to others the wonder gift that Jesus brings. An abundant life is not dependent on our circumstances, but our openness to Jesus. Let us live life to the full.