Monday, March 27, 2017

Lazarus "heard the tears of Jesus."

The Raising of Lazarus by James Tissot
Anthony de Mello (Taking Flight) shares this story in reflecting on truth.
The judge called the prisoner to the bar.
“I find you guilty on twenty-three counts. 
I therefore sentence you to a total of one hundred and seventy-five years”

The prisoner was an old man.  He burst into tears.  The judge’s facial expression softened.
“I did not mean to be harsh,” he said.
“I know the sentence I have imposed is a very severe one.  You don’t really have to serve the whole of it.” 

The prisoner’s eyes brightened with hope.
“That’s right,” said the judge.  “Just do as much as you can!”
In a few weeks we are about to enter more deeply into our Lenten journey through remembering and listening to the sacred stories of the final days of Jesus’ life. Some say stories are medicine. They have power; they do not require that we be a certain way, or act anything – we need only listen, and do as much as we can to be aware, attentive, receptive.
Stories are crucial to our sense of well-being, to our identity, to our memory and to our future. There is a power to stories that can often be experienced as one listens. Stories are a means for speaking the truth, exhorting us to do justice and to make peace. Stories can disturb the status quo that accepts inhuman acts and situations. Stories can trouble us, disturb our false sense of security and self-righteousness and jolt us out of our complacency.
In every age, God sends prophets to remind us of the story of how our God is involved in our lives. One author remarks “Prophets stand in our midst and tell it like it is, speaking the disturbing words that people don’t like to hear. If you find that the Word of God has not placed a demand on you, or challenged your life, you have not heard it.  If it has not called you to death, to lay down your life, to forget about yourself, you have not heard it.  If it has not called you where you do not want to go, you have not heard the voice of the prophets nor the Word that speaks through them.”
Let us open ourselves to the Word this week  and do as much as we can to receive the graces that God so desires to bestow upon us.
In the first reading, we recall the prophet Ezekiel who experienced the destruction of Jerusalem and went with his people into captivity. Early in his prophetic ministry, like Jeremiah, he called his people to conversion. But after their repentance, he spoke in a new way to them, giving them a vision of hope. He heard God speaking through him and with prophetic insight he saw a New Jerusalem. He spoke the Word that came to him in terms of conversion and a new covenant.  He saw the restoration of Israel in the image of a new city from which God’s glory would shine over all the earth. 
This Sunday’s Gospel is the conclusion of John - Chapter 11; it picks up after the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus’ gift of life to Lazarus did not bring Jesus friends and followers but was the trigger point that brought his enemies to move against him. The unbelieving Jews do not accept the signs that Jesus had worked in their midst. They refuse to let themselves be drawn in to the life which Jesus wants to share with them and which he invites them to share with others. They refuse to hear the Good News. They choose to be alone rather than unite themselves with life. They prefer to do as much as they can to hold on to their land, their power, their greed, their fear, their resentment. This Jesus is too much for them.
This is the season of the unfolding story of the mystery of the God who spoke – “My dwelling will be with you, and I will be your God” - it is a truth so large that we can only touch one part of it at a time. We have to let ourselves encounter it piece by piece, grace by grace without expecting that we will comprehend the whole picture. “We can never grasp this mystery; we can only allow ourselves to be grasped by it.”  So let us pray throughout this coming week to be open to the graces of the readings, and do as much as we can to let “God love us tenderly, tenaciously, and totally.”


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