This is always a special time of year for me. Many of my students over the years have been baptized at the Easter Vigil. These final weeks of Lent are a time of preparation and for me a time of great hope as God shows again and again that nothing is impossible for those who believe.
Easter comes late this year and in northeast China mid-April is always a time when we see signs of new life again. The snow melts and trees begin to show signs of new life. Winters here are always too long, so the slightest sign of spring brings with it hope and rejoicing. Our dry bones are about to get some new life.
In today’s first reading from Ezekiel the prophet speaks prophetically to a people in exile who are in need of some uplifting:
“O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!”
In today’s Gospel Jesus seems to be doing just what was prophesied by Ezekiel. The calling of Lazarus from the tomb was not a healing, something his disciples and others would have seen before, but rather as Jesus said:
"Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him."
Jesus was about to open the grave and have Lazarus rise from it! But it wasn’t going to happen in the place where Jesus and his disciples were when they received the news. They would have to travel back to Judea where just recently the people were trying to stone him. The words of the disciples make it pretty clear that they didn’t think it was a good idea:
"Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?"
The journey back to Judea with Jesus required and act of faith on the part of the disciples. Leaving their comfort zone to witness what would happen. The passages from John’s Gospel that we have read these past weeks remind us that Jesus truly wants to help those who believe to rise from the graves of blindness, thirst, fear and more and discover that he is Lord. And that with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. For the friends of Lazarus what happened after he was already in the tomb for so many days was unimaginable. What Ezekiel prophesied about the grey and dry bones was happening before their eyes. For the people in exile the message of the prophet gave hope. For those who witnessed Lazarus come out of the tomb the message was to never give up hope even if the situation seems hopeless. With God all things are possible.
As Palm Sunday and Holy Week approach it is important for all of us to make this journey of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection a journey that is full of faith and hope. Let us engage the Lord and seek and increase of faith and hope so that through our own relationship with the Lord, God may be glorified in what we say and do!