Fifth Sunday of Lent March 29, 2018
It’s amazing to me how effectively the body in normal cases can heal itself. I’ve spoken recently about a severe infection I contracted in my left thumb right before Christmas. It has been a slow process of regeneration. First the bacteria that were attacking my body had to be destroyed by antibiotics then the tedious rebuilding of skin and the thumbnail.
In the Gospel today the regeneration happens in a flash. The body of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus has been dead for four days. Our Lord purposely waits for the sickness of Lazarus to reach its peak that causes death. When He arrives, amid mourning and weeping, He calls forth Lazarus from the tomb. He appears in his grave clothes to the astonishment of all.
God has put into the nature of the universe a regenerative process, despite its deterioration from the ravages of sin. We in Northern New England must wait a bit longer than most of the country for the healing of the earth at springtime. Every year the earth appears to be stricken with death yet after the snows of winter, as the sun becomes stronger and the days longer, the earth heals itself. The grass greens, the trees leaf out and the flowers bloom soon to be followed by the vegetables that come to table.
Lazarus’s resurrection as well as the renewal of the earth every year foreshadows the process and end point of mankind if we, as the family of nations will turn from our ways that are contrary to God the Father. As Christians, the Body of Christ, we must submit to His will following the lead of our spiritual head Jesus, the very Son of God.
Jesus, at the resurrection of Lazarus, is illustrating His Godhead to those watching. He is no mere prophet. He is the One who created all things, including the body of Lazarus and the healing process that He set in place indicative of a loving, compassionate God. Yet the process of sickness and death is also in place, the result of disregarding the law of love.
The virus, that seems to be bringing humanity to a screeching halt, can be analyzed, and overcome. The human genius, originating from the intellect and reason of God’s image and likeness imprinted in the human soul, has the ability to triumph on a physical level.
Just as it’s a snap for God to cure the physical illness of a person (there have been miracles galore throughout human history), what takes time is the spiritual renewal of the soul. As we’ve discussed over and over man is made of both body and spirit. Jesus came to earth to save both, not just the spirit but also the body. When we die in friendship with God we will, at the resurrection, be united in body and soul; the perfect healing of man.
The Lenten process has been disrupted this year by an external force. Yet the internal force of the Holy Spirit must not be underestimated. Just as the plague facing humanity will be overcome, so will the ravages of sin. They are far more damaging for they attack the soul and are far more difficult and complex to heal.
The resurrection of Lazarus illustrates to us that God has a plan of regeneration for both body and soul. As Christians we must not fixate solely on the physical health of our bodies to the detriment of the soul. For as Our Lord tells us, “For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Men and women have been created for an end much greater than the physical health and pleasures of this physical, material world. A loving and merciful God is willing to forgive our sins and natural tendency to turn away from Him when things seem to be status quo and running smoothly in the material life. He can use difficult times to bring us back to Him although He prefers we come to Him without the pressure of an external threat.
God has been referred to as the “Hound of Heaven”, always on the scent pursuing us, reaching out calling us as He does Lazarus from the grave; calling us away from the eternal death caused by sin. Yet He will never force us against our will, for as God is totally free so He wants us to be free to choose life. Do we believe that God exists and yearns for our friendship now and forever more? He will come to us if we permit Him entrance. Let us in one chorus echo the words of Martha today in the Gospel, ”Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27)