Tag Archives: resurrection of Lazarus

The stench of the tomb

Are we willing to love, facing the stench of the tomb?

This past week I presided at a funeral in a rural village. The wife of a man active in the local church had died, just three weeks after their son had died in an accident.

When I arrived the people were in the small church gathered around the casket.

I walked to the front and as I walked past the casket I sensed a foul odor. I proceeded to the front and prepared for the service. Only occasionally during the service did I smell the odor.

When Jesus tells the men at the tomb of Lazarus to move the stone, Martha objects: “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”

But Jesus persists: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

And Lazarus comes forth.

Where is the glory of God manifested in today’s Gospel (John 11: 1-45)?

DSC00526We could easily – and rightly say – it’s in the raising of Lazarus to life. For, as St. Irenaeus wrote, “The glory of God is the living human being.”

Our God is a God who calls us forth to life – here in this world and in the fulfillment of God’s will in heaven.

But I wonder if the glory of God is not shown when we lovingly confront the stench of death, when we recognize that that stench is not the final word, when we call others to live in the face of death.

Is the glory of God shown in those who are not afraid of death and the stench of death – but lovingly embrace God and all God’s people?


Detail of Lazarus in a painting in the church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy.

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The miracle of walking the earth

The miracle is to walk the earth.
Thich Nhat Hanh

 What does today’s Gospel, John 11: 1-45, have to do with a phrase from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk?

The Vigils reading for the day, from St. Augustine’s Homilies on John, gave me a hint.

Among all the miracles performed by our Lord Jesus, the resurrection of Lazarus holds a foremost place in preaching…. If all things were made by [the Lord Jesus], what wonder is it that one [Lazarus] was raised by him, when so many are daily brought into the world by his power? It is a greater deed to create people than to raise them again from the dead. Yet he chose both to create and to raise again…

The last of Jesus’ signs in John’s Gospel is the raising of Lazarus, his beloved friend. John calls them signs, not miracles. They point to something more.

We look for miracles – but the real miracle is the miracle of the life given to us by the Creator. We can walk on the earth with the Lord – as Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden.

But sin and death come into our lives and we walk in exile.

We need not only life, but resurrection.

The raising of Lazarus is a foretaste of that resurrection.

Lazarus died a second time, but presumably he died with the hope of new life, with the realization that death is not the final word.

After Lazarus emerged from the tomb, Jesus told the people, “Untie him and let him go.”

A footnote in La Biblia Latinoamericana notes that the word “untie” was used by the early church in regard to the forgiveness of sins.

So Jesus wants Lazarus to walk the earth, knowing that his sins are forgiven, that he is called to live in the present but in the newness of life.

But Jesus also points to the fullness of life that is revealed in Him, the risen Lord, who calls us to live forever in him, starting now.

The miracle is to walk the earth, as Jesus did, and so to begin to walk with him – beyond death.