Saturday, March 8, 2008

Untie Him, and Let Him Go

(5th Sunday of Lent, A)

On this last Sunday before we arrive at Holy Week, it makes sense that we should hear about this great sign that concludes Jesus’ public ministry in the gospel of John. The raising of Lazarus shows us Jesus’ victory over death, that he himself is the “resurrection and the life,” and that eternal life is ours in Christ.

Let’s do a little thought experiment. I’d like us to think back to, say, two weeks before we were born. I know, we can’t really remember, but just imagine it. There, at the very beginning of our life, our whole world is our mother’s little womb. It’s dark and it’s small, but it’s complete as far as we were concerned then, and has everything we need. Now let’s say, by some magical process, we were able to receive a letter while we were still in the womb. And let’s say we did receive a letter from our big brother or sister.

So we read the letter. Our older sibling writes: You are not going to believe what’s on the way for you. You’re going to go through some rough hours. This is what you call “being born.” But—and I know this is going to sound crazy—soon you will find yourself in a world infinitely bigger than the one you know now. You’re going to see things, and meet all kinds of people, you’re going to go places, see light and colors, and you’re going to stand up and walk and even run.

So we’re sitting there in the womb, reading this letter and saying to ourselves, “go places and see colorful things?” “Run and jump? I don’t even know what these things are.” Back before we born we couldn’t have known how grand and diverse and beautiful this world we now live in was going to be. So maybe we would have believed the letter or not, but it turned out to be true. We were born, and gradually found ourselves in an infinitely larger reality.

Now the point of all this is that our situation here and now is much the same. At our own death, when we conclude this stage of our lives, we are born into eternity, into a world even larger and more beautiful than this one. And like my little experiment about getting a letter before we were born, we have received a message, a letter from the life that comes after this one. This message, this letter from beyond, is the Word of God himself, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the revelation, in this world of time and space, of the eternal Source of all that is that we call “God.” Jesus Christ is the goodness, gentleness, eternity and beauty of the world to come made visible for us in this world. He is the message sent to us to encourage us to believe in the goodness of our destiny. But just like we couldn’t have imagined the extent of this world before we were born, we can’t now really understand what the new life of heaven and eternal life will be like. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t believe it.

Each of us will have to die. Even Lazarus who received this great work of God raising him from the dead, he’s not with us now. Presumably he died again, and for good. And so it is with each of us. Our time will come. Jesus Christ saves us from death, but not from dying. Recall what Jesus says about Lazarus’s sickness: “This illness is not to end in death.” And it is the same with us. Whatever hurts us in this life, from the natural decline of our bodies, to the misfortunes of life, to our depression and anxiety and all the misery we insist upon for ourselves with our sins, these illnesses will not end in death. We will die, yes, but death is not our end.

For Jesus boldly says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And his resurrection becomes our own resurrection as soon as become members of his body—by our burial with him in our Baptism, and by our weekly initiation into the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. In fact, this Eucharist fulfills the promise God made through the prophet Ezekiel: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” Our Communion with Christ associates our humanity with his, and makes our own lives part of his rising from the dead.

And this is true freedom. The world we look forward to in the eternity of God himself will heal every hurt with its overwhelming and gentle kindness. And notice: this sets us free from ever fear. For nothing and nobody can really hurt us anymore when we are set free from death. And that’s how God sets us free in this life, free to be happy, healthy, and without worry. That’s God’s hope and desire, to give the command for each of us, as Jesus did for Lazarus, “untie him, and let him go.” Let’s let God untie us from whatever is binding us, and let’s be free.


jywheeler said...

Beautiful reflection for this Holy Week.

God Bless you and your blog,

Brother Charles said...

Thank you, Joann, for your blessing.

Happy Easter!