Lazarus, Martha, and life in the face of death

Although today is the feast of Saint Martha in the Catholic Church, the Benedictines celebrate Saint Martha, together with her sister, Mary, and her brother, Lazarus.

In today’s Gospel, (John 11: 19-27),  Jesus had come to the tomb of Lazarus; Martha runs to Jesus and asks him to raise her brother. The dialogue is moving as Jesus identifies Himself as the Resurrection and the Life and Martha affirms that He is the Christ, the Messiah. In the verses after the Gospel Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb – to live.

Lazarus had a new chance to live. He could start over again. And it was his sister Martha who interceded for him.

After meditating on this Gospel, I came up a song of John McCutcheon, “Dearest Martha.” McCutcheon has a way of bringing out the pain and the pathos all around us. The song is a letter of a farmer to his wife. His farm was going under and, as happened with a good number of farmers in the MidWest during the farm crisis of the 1980s, he was going to kill himself. This was his failure letter.

As I listened, I thought of the many who are depressed, the many who are desperate, the many who cannot see a way out. They are like Lazarus in the tomb.

But Lazarus had a sister who loved him and intervened with Jesus for his life.

How can I be one who intervenes for those who are desperate, helping them see that new life is possible, that God is calling them out of their tombs?

The raising of Lazarus can give us hope, but it also calls on us to be there, in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the desperation.

Drawing by Cerezo Barredo

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