In John’s Gospel we hear the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, a good friend, who had been dead four days. The story is meant to convey not only the power of Jesus over death but also give the reader a hint of Jesus’ own Resurrection. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said but what does that mean for us today? It is just some theological data point to memorize along with thousands of other factoids with which to impress friends while playing Jeopardy? How does it relate to life, real life?
With life experience we come increasingly into contact with death, external and internal. We see friends and family die- often in the prime of life- leaving holes in our hearts and memories of love lost. Death is a thief who visits us all eventually and it is always painful; no amount of pious platitudes can wipe the tears away. There is also death which we see within ourselves when our hearts become insensitive to God and others. A death which may allow us to keep breathing but slowly saps our lives of meaning, joy and the ability to have compassion for others (or even self!). Hope that we can change; hope that we can recover our lives even after horrific deaths. To say that Jesus is the resurrection and life is to say that there is hope, not as a magical formula to avoid pain and suffering (Jesus suffered!), but which can allow us to live. Christianity, labelled as a religion, is really not about doctrine, ritual, and dogma (though these are important- do not misunderstand me J) but an encounter with Jesus who lives NOW! Jesus conquered death and offers us a way to slowly see that death is not the end. If we choose, God’s grace can resurrect joy, compassion and love for family, friends God, and self. We do not need to be a slave to death- even as we cannot avoid its sting- but can allow God to transform the pain over time. We do not need to be enslaved to self but through God can once again become free to love and help others.
Mission Doctors deal with death daily and need our support not only in their work but to continue emotionally and spiritually. Please pray for them and support them as you can. God give us peace!
Brother John Kiesler, OFM