A few years back, I experienced job loss. It took me awhile to get over the shock and come to terms with this new state of reality. I felt a deep sense of injustice and battled through periods of anxiety. I journeyed through anger looking for peace but instead discovered a thirst for revenge. I tried seeking justice in the courts but only the rich can afford that.
It took a couple of years before I found calm acceptance. I had to move on but I found myself trapped in a tomb of bitterness. Early in this episode, a friend had taken me aside and shared a Mandela quote, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison”. Dwelling deep into this wisdom, I finally followed Mandela out of prison.
“Take the stone away.” I am indebted to this friend for moving away the stone that covered the opening to the tomb I was in.
The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead teaches us two things: the need to constantly search our inner selves and the reliance of a community of friends to journey life with. The consequent impact can be life changing bringing fresh hope and new meaning to life.
Everyday events that are negative can bind us especially if we face them alone. From simple anger to devouring bitterness, from innocent dislike to soul destroying hatred, from mild anxiety to deep seated worry, from improper lifestyles to severed relationships, from addictions to sins; layer by layer they bind us like the bands of burial cloth that covered Lazarus. These send us down into the darkness of a tomb.
Each of us have areas in our life that we rather put away. We hide from them pushing them deep into our inner selves. These can be things we have done that is not quite correct, sins we have committed, or things that have hurt us. Left in our inner selves, they become big stones that weigh us down; just like my stone of bitterness that was gnawing me inside, slowly destroying who I am.
The message of Lazarus tell of the need to be in community. The nature of our earthly journey and our human nature is such that we may find ourselves entombed from time to time. The nature of God is that he want to always heal and forgive so that we can journey in freedom and joy. Life is not a competitive race but our journey together. And the Risen Christ walk with us.
Alone in this darkness where hope seem to all but disappear, we hear the echoes of our name being called, “Come out!” It is Christ coming to our graves to raise us up from the death in our tombs to restore us to new life. He brings healing and reconciliation.
This is our mission: to help to roll away the stone. And when we emerge from the tomb, we will need help from many others to unbind us. “Unbind him, let him go free”. We witness not death but God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified”. Witnessing the joys of being set free is life-giving; it give us the true meaning of life.
We need to make “move that stone” our mission.
Fifth Sunday in Lent