As we get closer to Easter (merely two weeks away!), the readings more directly speak to the presence of sin & death in the world and Christ’s role in the face of them. Last week we heard about the man born blind as a result of sin, though not necessarily his own. This week we hear about the death of Lazarus, immediately after hearing Saint Paul speak about sin and death.
I was reminded of a scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – near the end after disaster is averted. Aware that there are some Trekkie’s in my parish (and at least two who read this blog), I’ve included that clip here – something that wouldn’t really be appropriate in the Mass!
The line that stands out in the context of our readings this weekend comes from Scotty, as Kirk is struggling to get to Spock. Kirk cries out “He’ll die!” and Scotty responds “Sir! He’s dead already.”
It rings true, and not just because we love Spock and the crew. As our ability to prolong life through technology grows, we find more and more situations where we know the outcome. And this is the point Saint Paul makes. Because of our sin, we are dead already, despite being able to walk, talk and do a variety of things for a little while longer. Its just that in our case, a little while happens to be seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong.
Jesus faces this reality in the gospel of John, when He announces Lazarus’ death and then meets Martha & Mary. The shortest sentence of the Scriptures conveys a great moment of empathy: “And Jesus wept.” It seems fair to guess that Jesus wasn’t just weeping for Lazarus, but for the broken human condition – which was never intended to include death.
And here Christ reveals His saving mission; this is what He has come to repair. After encouraging Martha and Mary, He calls Lazarus from the tomb, directing the apostles to untie him so that he can move about freely, having returned to life.
Some 2000 years later, we still find ourselves in the same position. But we are on the other side of Christ’s work. It is finished, and we will celebrate that in two short weeks. We are not left to fend for ourselves anymore, because Christ has left us the sacraments. In baptism we were joined to Christ’s Body, in confirmation we were sealed by the Holy Spirit and at the altar of sacrifice each Mass, we have the opportunity to receive Christ Himself.
In the context of sin and death, however, the most poignant sacrament is often the least attended – that of confession, penance and reconciliation.
How long has it been since your last confession? Months? Years? Decades?
This is ultimately why Christ came – to cleanse of our sins, so that we might share in the new life that Lazarus’ resurrection prefigured. So often, the sacrament is avoided, and for a variety of reasons. But this is the time for new life. And imagine what it will be to know – with absolute confidence – that your sins are forgiven. Come to confession before Easter!
This is the invitation that Jesus gives, not only calling Lazarus from the tomb of stone, but humanity from the tomb of sin. We are bound by more than cloth, but Christ offers us this time to walk freely – that we might not be ‘dead already’, but be alive in the Spirit.
your brother in Christ,