by Sister Donna Schroeder
For several weeks I have been mulling over the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, as well as those that preceded it. One of the things that struck me was that many of the people who were the beneficiaries of the miracles of Jesus were sketched in the gospels, sometimes with considerable detail, but were not given names, like the woman at the well or the man born blind. With Lazarus, it is different. He has a name but about him all we know is that he was a friend of Jesus and had two sisters, Mary and Martha, whose characters have become familiar to us. Is this an invitation to speculate? If it is then I think Lazarus must have been especially blessed because of the love of two such women and the friendship of Jesus. The name, Lazarus, comes from Eleazar, a word that means God helps or my God has helped. He was well named.
Lazarus and all of those who were blessed by the healing miracles of Jesus serve to remind me of the many unnamed saints whom we celebrate on the First of November. It reminds me also of the many unnamed saints among whom I have lived and continue to live.
The raising of Lazarus provides the circumstance for the beginning of the drama we celebrate in the Triduum. Bethany was close to Jerusalem. The news about the miracle Jesus worked there was the context for the massive response to the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem that we celebrate next Sunday. It was an astounding miracle. The Jews had a sense that the soul of the deceased hovered near for three days but on the fourth was gone. To have raised Lazarus on the fourth day was far more significant than the previous healings of those who had died. They were raised from the dead within minutes or hours of their deaths. Raising Lazarus demonstrated the divinity of Jesus more explicitly than other healing miracles that Jesus had worked. The news of this miracle increased the sense of urgency among the Jewish leaders to quell the popularity of Jesus. They saw Jesus as a rebel and as such a dangerous threat to the status quo.
In his book Power and Innocence, Rollo May makes a distinction between revolutionaries and rebels. According to May, the revolutionary wants to replace the current power structures with his own. It will not help the ordinary person but simply replace one command structure with another just as onerous as the one it replaces, just as the Communists replaced the Tsar. There are winners and losers.
A rebel, however, is concerned with a vision which is not just for himself. Everyone who listens and responds can be a winner. The vision is not tainted with revenge. It identifies with his or her people and with a universal ideal. The prophets were rebels. Rebels are made so by compassion, by an insight that sees beyond the superficial. Dialogue is important for the rebel. A rebel wants to persuade, to make others free within the vision. The rebel is a disturber of a false peace, of the limiting complacencies of those who lack vision.
In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, I was struck by the image of rolling the stone back. This is a foretaste of the Easter miracle but can also be a metaphor for being free of the binders we live with because of our materialistic society.
Many theologians consider the miracle recounted in this Gospel the pivot that leads to the Crucifixion. Jesus was well aware of the outcome he faced in coming to Jerusalem, the center of political power in this occupied land. His disciples also knew that the enmity of those in power would drive them to try to crush this rebel. Christ did not keep the rules that had become their substitute for God and so threatened their view of what was good for the country.
Jesus, the rebel, really knew the God who was the sustaining and supporting power. Another stone would be rolled back.