The Sunday Bread, 29th March 2020
Readings: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 129(130); Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
Well, today, my message to all of you who are watching is very simple: be confident, have hope, trust in the power of God and in the power of Jesus Christ! Yes, we are going through a very trying and difficult time, for many a tragic time: the loss of loved ones before their time, the anxiety about those who are sick, not only from Covid-19 but from other diseases, whose situation might be made worse by the current pandemic. We’re filled with anxieties even about greeting people, about getting food, about our jobs, about the money in the bank … In other words, we are anxious about all the things which normally makes us feel happy and secure.
But as that beautiful text from St. John’s Gospel, about the raising of Lazarus from the dead, makes clear, ultimately we are in the hands of God. And those hands are loving hands, they are tender hands, they are caring hands, they are hands that heal, they are hands that raise from the dead, they are hands that caress, they are hands that hold us tight and firm.
So, no matter what the feelings may be that you have, or the voices that you have in your head, going round in circles, making you worry and making you worry more than you normally would: “What about this? What about that? What about the other?” Please! Let the Lord in. Let the Lord calm you down. Let him reassure you.
The Enemy of our human nature is particularly happy when we are confused and desolate and feel vulnerable, because he makes hay while his sun shines to try and disturb our inner peace, to make us question our faith, to make us think, “Is God there at all? Are you out there, Lord? If you are, where are you?” But it’s at times like these precisely that we are challenged, we are invited by God himself, to trust even more.
The story of Lazarus is the story of every one of us. Lazarus had two sisters who loved him. He had friends, including Jesus, who loved him. Every one of us has family, I hope, that love us and we have friends that love us. But no matter how much we are loved, we are human, we are weak. Our bodies are not made to last for ever. And so, we get sick. And, thank God, with medicine the way it is, with technology the way it is, so many times sicknesses that may well have killed us in the past are now something that can be cured with relative ease. Things that used to be a death-sentence are now things we can go through and come out the other end.
But even if we do get over sickness, we will get sick again and again. Eventually one of those sicknesses will lead to death. It’s the unavoidable outcome of our human condition. And so, yes, Jesus could have saved Lazarus from the sickness and brought him hail and healthy back into the arms of his two sisters and of his friends. But he would have got sick again, and again, and of course he would eventually have died.
So, Jesus’ delay is not because he wants us to be sick but because in the Gospel he is trying to teach us something far more radical: that if terminal illness ends in death, yet because of Jesus, death ends in life, in eternal life. In other words, what really ails us is not this sickness or that sickness: what truly ails us is the fact that we are mortal, that we will die. And that is the big “sickness” which Jesus came to deliver us from through his crucifixion and death on the Cross and by his resurrection from the dead.
For how could someone who could raise another man to life not also raise himself to life? But there is a difference. The life to which Lazarus was brought back was mortal life; he was going to die again. Jesus is simply making the point that he has power over death, a power that He exercises out of his infinite love for us. But the Resurrection of Jesus is not to mortal life again; it is to immortal life. That is the destiny, that is the great gift, that is the final outcome to all of our sicknesses and to all of our deaths. Our destiny is to be raised, to have that stone taken away, and for us to be brought back to the fullness of life, ourselves individually and together with all those we have known and loved in this life, and to gather around Christ Himself in His Kingdom.
So, Covid-19 will do its worst and is doing a terrible job on humanity. But whether it be Covid-19 or Covid-20 or 21 or whatever else is thrown at us, the truth remains. What truth? That because of Christ, because of our trust and faith in Him, without forgetting the many good lives that many lead who don’t know Him or believe in Him but who are living lives which nonetheless are seeking for Him and are searching for Him: Christ will command all of these to rise from the dead with us when the day comes.
Just imagine that! Imagine that loud voice of Jesus, “Lazarus! Come forth!” Put your name in the place of Lazarus, put the name of the person you most love who has died in the place of Lazarus. You will hear Christ call all our names on that day when sickness and death will be finally destroyed for ever.
So, please do not allow yourselves to get locked into negative thinking. Try to encourage one another. Try to lift up your hearts, your heads, your eyes, your minds, your whole selves towards the Jesus who loves and calls you and in the certainty of knowing that His power over your destiny is far greater and far more secure than anything this life can throw at you.