Some of the most interesting characters in Scripture are also the ones we know least about.
In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent we meet one of them: Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.
Lazarus, we are told, had been in the tomb four days, a fact which distinguishes his story from those of other Scriptural characters who were raised from the dead.
The Gospel-writer wants to make it clear that what happened to Lazarus was no ìnear-deathî experience. Lazarus was dead. Very dead.
But at the command of Jesus, he was alive again, coming out of the tomb wrapped in bandages with a cloth covering his face.
Ariana, foreground, a CFCA sponsored child in Mexico.
Not fair. Not only are we cheated out of knowing what Lazarus might have said on this wondrous occasion, we arenít even allowed a glimpse of the expression on his face.
What do you suppose it would have been? Gratitude? Confusion? Perhaps even anger at having been brought back? We just donít know.
And that, I suppose, is how it must be. Ours is not to know what awaits us when this life has ended, but to trust in Godís promise that it will be good.
Our task, rather, is to face the various smaller ìdeathsî that life presents ó broken relationships, loss, personal failures, the list goes on ó and to allow God to raise us from them, stronger than we were.
If we do that, we need have no fear of the final death.
But rising from these day-to-day deaths isnít easy, and it takes wisdom to recognize our own ìtombsî ó those aspects of our behavior that keep us from joyful living. It also takes the courage to answer Godís call to come forth from those tombs.
Lent is a gift from a loving God that helps us see our tombs for what they are and break free of them.
It is a time to be raised, through acts of personal discipline and generosity, from the selfishness of sin into deeper, life-giving relationships.
For nearly 30 years, CFCA has served as a path into such relationships. Through our Hope for a Family sponsorship program, we offer people a way to connect with others that blesses both sponsors and sponsored persons.
We seek to help liberate people from the insidious twin-tombs of poverty and indifference, and we are deeply grateful for the hundreds of thousands who have joined us in that liberation.
We may not know much about Lazarus, but it is a pretty good bet that once the cloth was lifted from his eyes the first thing he saw was the joyful faces of Jesus and the others who loved him.
It is a great image and one for each of us to reflect upon.
Just look at the good things that wait for us outside the tomb!
- Read the first Lenten reflection: Learning to love others more deeply
- Read the second Lenten reflection: Learning to listen for the voice of God
- Read the third Lenten reflection: Discovering our best selves
- Read the fourth Lenten reflection: Opening our eyes and hearts to a new vision
- Read the sixth Lenten reflection:†Embracing the reality of the cross
- Read the seventh Lenten reflection:†Making sense of the empty tomb