Gospel Thoughts 25 March 2012, Lazarus
Today’s Gospel Story (John 11:1-45) is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. After he calls Lazarus to come forth from the tomb, Jesus tells the bystanders to “untie him and let him go”. These few words seem in many ways to describe how Jesus spent his life trying to help the people come to know his Father loving them. He was unbinding them from their illnesses, their sins, their afflictions, and inviting them to live his Father’s love. If the Church considers itself to be continuing Jesus’ mission, it would seem that it would be speaking the same words to the folks today. Is it?
When we try to look at things today through the prism of our prayer practice, whatever it may be, we just might begin to notice this is really an exciting time to be alive and trying our best to follow Jesus. Some would say that there is a war going on against the church and we are under attack. Might it be possible that rather than a war, the Holy Spirit if giving us an opportunity to look at what it means for all of us as a community of believers, and each of us as an individual believer, to follow Jesus at this time and place in history, with the folks who are in our lives as we are in theirs? This is not a threat to be feared, but an opportunity to be welcomed. There is so much good happening all around us, even as there is so much suffering that is giving rise to the good, giving folks new opportunities to share in the love of Jesus that brings us all together. The Spirit is giving us the opportunity to look at what we say we believe and get a handle on its implications, to get beyond the words and concepts to what they call us to do and how they call us to live. Every one of our doctrines, beliefs, and legitimate practices points us towards looking at what they mean for us and call us to in our everyday living. They are not static notions or definitions that we have to express only in very specific terms. When we let go of them and let ourselves be drawn beyond them to where they point us, they become descriptions of what we have come to know in our own life.
In the Story Jesus calls Lazarus from the dead. What does this mean for us? If we are trying to imitate Jesus and live as he live, does it mean we can only be with people who use the same words and concepts as we do to talk about him, or that only folks who uses our words and concepts can approach him? In the Story Jesus told the folks to unbind Lazarus and let him go. If we are trying to imitate Jesus, are we calling folks who do not live as we think they should out of what we consider to be their bonds and putting them in bonds that we make for them because we have all the answers? There is a lot more to following Jesus than knowing the right words, thinking the right way, and living by prescribed norms, meanwhile judging as faulty in some way any folks who do not do these things as we do.
We cannot go back to the days when we knew the right questions and answers, had all the right words to describe things, kept everything, including God, wrapped up neatly in a box. Too much has happened. We are coming to understand the origins of the universe, which has given us insight into the real meaning of Genesis. Medicine has made remarkable advance in organ transplant, prostheses, microsurgery, etc, which suggests a new understanding of the Creator giving us an integral part with him in the sustaining of a self-creating universe with all its implications. New understandings of human growth and development have given us marvelous insights into the human person, the depth and richness of human relationships, and a more profound sense of Jesus – how he lived in his day and what he is trying to teach us in ours.
The wonders of today invite us not to react in fear or circle the wagons, but to root ourselves in prayer and live open to the Spirit, eager to let the Spirit draw us forth into what we might call the ongoing revelation of the Trinity. We do not need to point to persons, movements, and say they are attacking us, and the only way to survive is to get back inside our fortress of words, ideas, and traditions. We do not need to blame anybody for anything, or accuse anybody of anything. The Spirit is alive and well, and drawing us forward. The very folks we would blame and accuse because to do so makes us feel good, are, in fact, good friends, good folks who are doing us a favor by inviting us to look to Jesus and learn from him more about what it is for us to say we are his followers, to ask him what does he mean when he tells us to imitate him, to do in our own time and place what he did in his. These wonderful folks are agents of the Holy Spirit who are shaking up our world, and this bothers us because we like our neat little boxes. History seems to show that the Holy Spirit doesn’t really like to be tied up and kept neatly in a box that is very convenient for us. We are where we are because this is where we find grace, and it is the only place where we can be and be real. There is suffering all around us, no doubt. But grace is all around us, too. Grace is not words and ideas. Grace is power, action, compassion, creations, forgiveness, calling us to be open, to trust, to think and reason and come up with new ideas and understanding, and, above all, to do something. This really is an exciting time not to moan and judge and accuse, and wring our hands, but to live . . .
Entry filed under: Catholic, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, Priest, thoughts. Tags: being led by the spirit, compassionate god, current controversies, gospel story, kingdom of god, religious rights, religious traditions.