One day a patient asked Dr. Karl Menninger, the noted American psychiatrist, what he should do if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on. He expected the famous psychiatrist to respond, “Call me immediately!” Instead Dr. Menninger said, “Go out and find someone in trouble and help that person.”
Truer words were never spoken by Dr. Menninger, by Jesus Christ, by Mother Teresa and by many others. The only way we can really help ourselves out of depression or hard times like many of us are going through right now, is by giving ourselves over to a higher cause outside of ourselves. We do this by helping another person, by helping the poor or by helping the community. We must move the spotlight off ourselves and put it on others.
In today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45), Jesus receives word from Martha and Mary that Lazarus is at the point of death. But there is a price on Jesus’ head if he were to return to Bethany. It would not be wise for him to go to the place where his enemies were plotting to kill him.
Jesus throws caution to the wind and goes anyway. He loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus was dying. He would go to be with them no matter what.
Jesus’ going to Martha and Mary and Lazarus tells us a lot about the character of Jesus. It tells us what we can expect from Jesus ourselves. It also teaches us that we are to help others who are in trouble. Shakespeare said: “A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” So now we know whose game plan Dr. Karl Menninger was following – that of Jesus Christ.
I have probably been to over a thousand funerals in the past fifty-four years. At many of these funerals the deceased person’s family member or friend gives a eulogy. Invariably he or she says, “We come here today, not to mourn a death, but to celebrate a life.” I sometimes say to myself, “If you’re not mourning the person in that coffin, you’re in the wrong church.” Jesus shed copious tears at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus wasn’t celebrating Lazarus’ life. As one person put it, “Jesus was crying so loudly, he woke Lazarus up!”
Today’s Lazarus story lets us know how much Jesus hates death. His weeping is evidence of that. Jesus reveals to us that God is upset when nasty things happen to people, whether they are saints or sinners. Jesus is the God of life. He came to do battle with death and to conquer death. Death has always been the dragon that eats up our hopes, spoils our plans, and casts a shadow over our brightest days. Jesus came to slay that dragon. Yet he cried with all who mourn the loss of a loved one.
Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus is emphasizing that he is the God of the living. It puzzles me why priests and others say over the corpse in church, “Eternal REST grant unto you.” Is it not more correct as we listen to today’s Gospel to say, “Eternal LIFE grant unto you?” Jesus never said, “I am the resurrection and the REST.”
If we think of heaven as a place to collect bedsores, then why not dress the dead person in pajamas rather than in expensive traveling clothes? Obviously Jesus thinks of heaven as a place where we go to party-hearty and look our best. To make heaven to be anything else is to make it dullsville. Who the heck wants to go to a dull party that goes on for all eternity?
In order for us to get to heaven where we can party-hearty, we’ve got to come out of our tombs. As with Lazarus, Jesus calls out to each of us, “COME OUT…COME OUT!” from the tombs in which we lie hidden to a better and a more glorious life.
So many of us have been reduced into a tomb of some sort of secretive life. It might be a secret we can’t tell, a sin we can’t confess, or a memory we want to bury. At its worst it can be a lifestyle or a pattern of unethical behavior we have separated from the rest of our lives. We may even con ourselves into believing that all of this is normal and not so bad.
These tombs often look similar. They seem smaller on the surface, but as we get away with our secrets, we bury ourselves in them more deeply. We guard the entrance to our secretive tombs. We use up a lot of energy defending them. And we’re so ashamed if anyone ever rolls away the stone and sees the mess inside.
Today Jesus stands at the entrance of our tombs. Jesus calls us out of them. Jesus calls us to move away from our shame, to embrace repentance, and to realize what is best for ourselves here and now in life. Jesus wants us to see the light and to become fully alive today as did Lazarus.
Martha tells Jesus that her brother will rise again on the last day, someday way down the road. Jesus corrects her sharply, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus is telling Martha and telling us that he is and must be the mainstay of our lives. Why does he say this? Jesus says this so that we can experience a resurrection TODAY, a NEW LIFE HERE AND NOW! Who wants to wait for a resurrection that is years away? I don’t! I want a resurrected life TODAY!
Jesus says to you and to me: “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE!” TODAY!!
Resurrection Means that the Worst Thing — Is Never the Last Thing.
What secret tomb is Jesus calling YOU to come out from TODAY?
SIN WOULDN’T BE SO ATTRACTIVE IF THE WAGES WERE PAID IMMEDIATELY!