Yesterday we read in the Gospel of John the story of Lazarus’ death. We read that when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Both his sisters tell Jesus that had He been there Lazarus would have never died. Jesus replies first to Martha, “He will rise again… I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” and then to Mary, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Mary and Martha (and all those who were present) were blessed that day to witness the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. What a tremendous gift they were given- they believed and were able to witness firsthand Christ’s tremendous power to heal even those who have died!
But what about us- how are we to have faith in times that seem so desperate? In times where our loved ones are facing death or perhaps have died will we be immediately rewarded with a miracle like Mary and Martha were rewarded? Most likely we won’t see that kind of miracle. But that doesn’t mean that our faith in Christ’s healing and love will not be rewarded… quite the contrary in fact! Christ tells us over and over again in the Gospels that when we believe in Him and live in Him that we will never die. Of course our earthly bodies will die but our souls will go on to live forever with Him! That is quite the reward indeed! We are not made to live here. Our lives here are only temporary. We were made for Heaven. We were made to live with God. The reward that we stand to inherit is so great that we can only imagine how amazing it will be!
If this is the case then why do we fear death? We know that Christ has promised us an eternity with Him so why do we worry about the afterlife so much? I think this is because while we know what is promised we still have not seen with our own eyes that heavenly treasure that awaits us. We fear being without our loved ones. We know that we will feel loneliness when our loved one leaves our side. We fear God will find fault in us that will keep us out of His loving embrace. All our fears are completely rational and completely human. We cry, we worry, and we plead with God to provide us a miracle. We feel helpless and alone.
In this story of Lazarus we often miss a very important phrase that is essential to the story. It is often missed because of the miraculous events that follow but is equally important to the story. The passage reads, “Jesus wept.” A mere two words long and yet this sentence speaks volumes. Jesus, who was divine and who knew what awaits all of us in heaven, and knew that Lazarus would soon be raised, cried in pain with the sisters. He knew the desperation that Mary and Martha felt and he could sympathize with their feelings. His compassion for the women moved Him to tears. There are other reasons that Christ wept outside of Lazarus’ tomb but I wish to focus on this aspect… this very human aspect.
Often we feel that we have to be strong in the face of death. We must hold in our emotions and not show how we truly feel, how much we are truly hurting. But when we look at this passage we can see that it is normal to grieve, even though we believe in everlasting life. It is normal to feel sadness and loneliness. It is normal to wonder if there was something else we could have done. It is normal to ask God for a miracle. It is normal to ask God why we didn’t receive that miracle. Christ, who dwelled in heaven alongside our Father before coming to earth to save us, wept for His friend. He wept for those who loved him. He wept for all of us. He shows us His very human nature… He shows us our human nature.
Yesterday as I listened to our priest give his homily on the Gospel reading I was moved by something he said. He told us that if we are to be like Christ in all we do we must face death with humility and we must face death with radical trust. How right he is! We often only focus on how we should live our lives like Christ but we must also think about how we face death as well. Father Rafa reminded us that while many of us have faced the death of a loved one already we also will all face our own death eventually. How we handle death is just as important as how we handle life.
We are so blessed to have the story of Lazarus to reassure us of Christ’s saving grace. We are also blessed to have this story to reassure us of Christ’s humanity too. He was humble and compassionate. Christ shows us how much he loves us through His tears at Lazarus’ tomb and then again as He suffers on the cross and dies for our sins. Christ models for us how we should live our lives and how we should embrace our eventual deaths. The way He encounters and deals with death, both His friend’s death and His own, is just as our priest advised us to address death… with great humility and with radical trust.
I pray if you have lost someone or are facing the death of loved one you will look to Christ and hear His words, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Trust in Him and know that He understands your pain, your fears, and your loneliness. Believe in His words and know that like Lazarus we will each be raised up to new life with Him. Our death here is not final, there is more to come. We need to approach death with great humility and with radical trust. Christ has promised us life with Him. There is no greater gift than this.
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.