5th Sunday of Lent
Will Jesus Cry When I Die?
I attended the funeral of Deacon Ricardo Arias on Friday. Ricardo and I were ordained in the same class, and he is the fifth of my class that has died. He had suffered from cancer for a long time. The funeral Mass was held at the cathedral, and the bishop presided, along with dozens of priest and deacons, and the cathedral was filled with people who came to pay their last respects.
The bishop spoke of Ricardo’s quiet, unfailing love for and service to the church. He spoke of his dedication to God’s people. He had been a good and faithful deacon. Ricardo had obviously touched a great many people. Many wept.
I preside at a lot of funerals. Many of them are for people I have never met or known. Many times the only Catholics in the church are myself and the person in the casket. I hear a lot of stories about the deceased, how he or she has touched the lives of their friends and family. Some are good and some not so much so. Some are pretty vacuous. Most people don’t live heroic lives. Many lives are defined by the activities they contained rather than how they affected the lives of others.
Funerals often make me think about what my own funeral will be like. What will I be remembered for? What will people say about me? How many people will be there out of respect for me or my family, and how many will be so perturbed at losing me that they will weep? How many lives will I have touched and influenced? How many have I led to Christ?
Like Lazarus, will my life, and death, be for the glory of the Son of God?
This was not the first time Jesus had raised someone from the dead. He had raised Jairus’ young daughter, and the son of the Widow of Nain. He had done so out of compassion for the grieving parents, and he did so in privacy. Lazarus was different. Jesus didn’t cry when those young people died, but here we hear those famous words written for the first and only time in the gospels – “And Jesus wept.”
For Jesus, Lazarus’ death was personal. Outside of his apostles, Mary, Martha and Lazarus are the only people named as his friends. I imagine that Jesus often went to their home just outside of Jerusalem to rest and get away from the crowds. Jesus had a special place in his heart for them. He was very close to them, and so it is understandable that Jesus would be upset when his friend died.
Jesus weeps for his friends. Jesus weeps for them because they are not just some people he meets on his way. Jesus happened upon Jairus and the Widow. Jesus had a personal relationship with Lazarus. Jesus wept for Lazarus because he was his friend. He was his family. He loved him because he was loved by him.
Will Jesus cry when I die?
Will I just be another disciple among the crowd, or will he consider me his friend? His close friend? His family? Will I have invited him into my home? Will we have broken bread together often? Will I have sat at his feet while he taught me? Will I have thrown myself down before him in shame and have asked for his forgiveness? Will Jesus know me so well that he will be perturbed when I suffer?
Today’s gospel is the promise. This is what it is all about. This is why we believe and this is what we hope for. Without Jesus’ promise of the resurrection from the dead why should we bother? Jesus’ resurrection really means nothing for us unless it points to our own destiny. Why should you change your life, why should you become His disciple if it were not for the reward of everlasting life?
Those are the fundamental questions we ask ourselves sooner or later. We all want to believe that there’s something after this life. We all want the promise. That’s why Lazarus’ story is our story, because we all have that promise.
Jesus didn’t just say he was the resurrection and the life, he proved it. He rose again to a new kind of life, a glorious life, and he promised that we would have that same life, too. That’s why this story is for all of us, because Jesus came so that all may have everlasting life. The promise he gave to Martha is the promise he gives to us.
May we all live as children of the promise.