Do you believe?
21 year old Zack Dunlap was pronounced dead November 19th, 2007 following a four-wheel accident that left him brain dead. Doctors spoke to his family in regards to organ donation. They agreed. Shortly after, Zach’s grandmother approached her grandson’s bed, knelt down, and said, “Lord, I have never asked for a miracle. Today, I am asking one from you.” Suddenly, the young man began to twitch and tug at the arms. To this day, the doctors have no explanation. Three years later, Zach has fully recovered. The family credits it all to prayer. So would I.
What is the fastest way to grow up? To embrace your cross and die to yourself. Last night, I went to see the movie Of Gods and Men, the true story of seven Trappist monks executed by Algerian Islamic terrorists. Their throats had been slit; their bodies never found. Loved by the community that surrounded the monastery, it was a national loss. These men lived the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and silence in the strictest sense. They knew (they had been warned in many ways), their lives were in danger. They could have left, but they did not. Through the long wait they suffered as a community and as individuals. Some had doubts of faith; others, their family to think about back home. They loved life, they did not despise it. They did not choose to die, but they accepted and embraced death out of love for God, neighbor and even the “friend of their final moment”.
This morning’s Gospel reminds us of the drama of life: life, friendship, death and resurrection. The Lord waited four days to return to Judea. He could have come sooner but he chose to wait and this was the Lord’s friend! Seven Trappist monks, who lived a faithful life serving the Lord were executed, and some punk kid from Oklahoma came back from the dead. So what is going on? St. Theresa of Avila reminds us of how the Lord treats his friends: he allows them to imitate him. She replies, “No wonder you have so few friends.” Life, friendship, death and resurrection all play into God's amazing plans, but the prerequisites for all who wish to rise remains the same: Am I close to the Lord? Does he have my heart? Do I believe in Him?
St. John is not interested at all in describing the Lord's power to raise someone from the dead. He does not think like we do. Christ’s miracles are not just physical. They are physical, spiritual, and psychological signs of conversion. They are pointers to something higher than the surface. We are to dig deeper or rise higher than we ever imagined into our life . Lazarus comes forth, out of the tomb, with his body still wrapped and his face still covered in bandages. Why? Because he will need them again. One day, he will return to the grave. The time of the final judgment has not arrived. This is not the end of the world. This is a sign, a tiny little speck, or a precursor of God’s amazing grace and love for us. What happened to Lazarus, friend and faithful follower of Jesus Christ, will happen to us. WE SHALL RISE FROM THE DEAD! But we must first believe and experience the Way of The Cross.
Why does the Lord demand faith? Why does he want us to believe in Him? Why is belief so important for a God so omnipotent? Belief means a way of life! The Lord calls us to believe; that is, to live like Him.
In all the above cases, we see the close knit correlation of the great mysteries of life, friendship, death and resurrection. All four are related to one another in a mysterious and very real way. We shall all graduate, either to eternal life or eternal death. Not a single one of us will remain stagnant.
“I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.” (Ez 37:14)
Heavenly Father, at the end of each day you give us a new day to die to self and to rise with Christ. Quiet our fears and open our hearts so that we love you more each day. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.