In last Sunday’s gospel, the events of a sick man who lived in Bethany ignited Jewish leaders to kill Jesus. Bethany means “house of the afflicted.” John’s intent in writing this account is not just about Lazarus but about us all afflicted ones. Lazarus means, "God helps." John saw this story as summarizing all gospel stories.
It begins in need. Lazarus is seriously ill and dies. "God remembers" and Jesus is a concrete sign that God does not forget us humans by coming to our tombs. We suffer many afflictions in our "houses of the affliction." We are Lazarus in our tombs and God has not forgotten us.
Lazarus isn’t the only one suffering dire circumstances. His loving sisters and concerned friends had come to comfort them. But all their support didn’t keep Lazarus from death. This universal "man" needed help in a world where death takes total control over us. We are on board with St. John as we join him to discover whether "God helps."
His sisters were frustrated with Jesus. Why did he delay and let Lazarus die! Yet, Jesus said, "This illness is not to end in death...." Jesus has power over death and will reveal the "glory of God." God is not a God of death but a God of life. That’s our hope when we live in "a house of the afflicted!" where those we love diminish. Faith in Jesus does not guarantee an easy solution, a cessation of all problems. In fact, things may even get worse. And like the sisters of Lazarus we might ask, "Where is Jesus when you need him!?" Because of Jesus we have the life of God in us, helping us through the losses that afflict us. Death and sin do not have the last word even though it holds us in a seemingly unbreakable grip! Jesus comes to our tombs revealing that God has the word of life! In that word we discover the "glory of God” Who calls us each by name, "come out!"
That call comes to us in our community’s needs, “the house of the afflicted.” The human situation is not beyond the hope of Jesus’ healing words to "Come out." Then He tells those nearby, "Untie him and let him go." At our Eucharist his word helps us, forgives our sins, and then sends us on mission to take His words and deeds to raise others to life. We now are given a new life to live and become Christ’s instruments for the life of our world. Jesus continues to come among us to raise up disciples to develop the potential of all human beings.