March 26, Fifth Sunday of Lent
Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45 (John 11:1-45)
Today’s gospel reading begins with, ‘the sisters of Lazarus sent an SMS to Jesus, the wording of which is quite revealing: “He whom you love is ill.”’ Later we read: ‘Jesus wept.’
When Jesus suggested removing the stone from the cave inside which Lazarus lay dead for a few days, Martha cautioned about the possibility of a foul odour. The love, the tears and the statement of ‘bad odour reminded me of an event where I happened to be personally present. The news of the death of a brother was similar; love was similar, tears were similar, and the caution of bad odour too was similar.
This happened at the same formation house in Indore, in Indian Central Province where Fr. Sebastian M. SVD was working till recently as a formator. His younger brother Mathew too was an SVD but is now buried in the cemetery of the same institute. When Sebastian was a student of theology in Pune, Mathew was doing his study of philosophy at Bhopal. During a picnic, sad to say, he got drowned and was found only after a few days. Sebastian managed to reach only towards the end of the funeral mass for his brother. It had been decided earlier that the coffin won’t be opened because of a similar caution of a bad odour from the decaying body. When Sebastian insisted that he would want it open, we had to ask everyone else to move out of the hall. After a while, the casket was opened. By that time, Sebastian had nearly collapsed. His legs were unsteady. He had to hold on to me and he told me that there was a rosary in his pocket and I should take it out and break the rosary into two, leave half of it in the coffin and the other half should go back to his pocket. Then he tried to say, filled with emotions, that their mother had given only one rosary for both of them together as they left home to join the seminary. He said amid his flowing tears, half of the rosary belongs to my brother. So, with his hand in mine, we gave Mathew what belonged to him and much more than a full rosary of love.
After that, the coffin was closed and people were invited to come back to the hall. I felt quite moved to be there amid two brothers, one dead and the other alive, whom death could not separate. Mother Mary and their thoughtful and intuitive mother brought them back to a moment of inseparable love. True love never dies. No death can take away love.
We see how human Jesus was. His tears spelt it out. The dividing line between human and divine love is invisible. The presence of love moves us out of ourselves to bring out the best for others as well. Jesus responded with the love that he had in his heart to the love in the heart of Lazarus and his sisters.
The conversation between Jesus and Martha raised the awareness to still a higher plane, leading trust to an unusual expectation. “There are still possibilities”, told Martha, because “whatever you ask of God, it won’t be denied.” Did Martha gently remind Jesus of the words he had earlier shared with people? “Ask and it will be given to you.” Did her statement bring him back to the truth of who he really was, Abba’s beloved? It’s also amazing to see the trust Jesus had in himself and the assurance he felt in God to cry out then and there in the midst of them all, “Lazarus, come out”.
Imagine the possibility of Lazarus not rising up! I am sure that Jesus didn’t even think of that likelihood for a moment in the blink of an eye. Imagine what trust Jesus needed to have to tell Lazarus, not in private, but out there, in the midst of a crowd to say what he said. Trust is the essential component of love. Love is more than trust. But minus trust, love loses its essential quality.
When the level of trust rises up to a hundred per cent, doubt takes a downward dip towards a zero point. If we give out our best to those we love, we will enable them to bring out their best as well. And it will come back to us in full measure.
Be there as a friend in need, with love filled with trust. And miracles will keep happening.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.