On the Death of Lazarus.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Death of Lazarus.
Try to realize the apprehension, the distress, the anxiety that filled the minds of the two sisters at Bethania. Their dearly loved brother Lazarus was seriously ill, they were aware of the danger of his condition; they feared, they felt a presentiment that his illness would end fatally, and alas! the only person to whom they could look with confidence for help and cure was afar off. However, in spite of the distance they sent to Him, they sent a messenger to Jesus to tell Him: “Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.” (St. John xi. 3.)
1st. Consider our Lord’s conduct on the receipt of this message. It is said of Him that He loved the sick man and his two sisters. He knew beforehand that without His succor Lazarus would die. He knew the grief, the sorrow, the bitter woe, the many tears his loss would cause to both the sisters who were so deeply attached to him, and yet what does He do? “When He had heard therefore,” the Evangelist tells us, “that Lazarus was sick, He still remained in the same place two days.” (xi. 6.) Instead of hastening to the relief of His friend, our Lord remains two days longer in the country east of the Jordan. Indifference is not the motive that actuates Him, for our Lord loved the sick man. Higher aims and objects demanded from Him this sacrifice of affection and friendship. The Saviour of mankind would not deprive the multitudes who were in sore need of spiritual instruction, who pressed around Him hungering and thirsting for salvation, of the spiritual assistance they needed, for the sake of affording a single individual the bodily succor he required. Besides this, other considerations had to be thought of; doubtless His loving, compassionate heart urged Him to spare His friends at Bethania, who had often made Him welcome under their hospitable roof, the affliction that threatened to fall on them; but higher and stronger than the affectionate impulse of His heart was His Father’s will, the glory and honor of God, which demanded this delay. Learn of Jesus, my soul, to make personal sacrifices for the sake of higher aims; let the will of God, the glory of God, be first and foremost with you; immolate to them the desires of your heart. And if your affections and your conscience impel you in different directions, if the former urge you to comply with the wishes of your relatives or friends while the latter requires you to make the will of God your single aim, then listen first of all to conscience, obey its voice, however sorely your heart may bleed in consequence.
2d. Consider what happened next. Our Lord Himself announces (v. 14) “Lazarus is dead”; a short time before He had made use of a different expression in speaking of the sorrowful event, and announced the sad death of His friend to the disciples in these words: “Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” (v. 11.) Our Lord speaks of dying as falling asleep, slumbering, and He terms death a “sleep.” In the Saviour’s sight, as St. Augustine remarks, His friend was only sleeping; to the eyes of man he was dead. It was no more difficult a matter for Him, the Giver of life, to raise one who was dead to life again than to awaken one who was asleep; moreover death is in reality a sleep for the just, in which as St. John tells us in the Apocalypse (ch. xiv. 13) “they rest from their labors.” Pause, and meditate awhile upon this thought. Death is not as the world deems it, complete annihilation, – a dreary, comfortless idea in which however the worldling seems to find consolation – it is not an absorption into empty nothing, a cessation of all existence; no, it is only a short sleep. Our Lord will awaken us out of this slumber as once upon a time He awoke Lazarus. “With the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God” (I. Thess. iv. 15) we shall one day awake out of this sleep, we shall awake – impress this deeply on your mind – either to eternal day or to everlasting night.
3d. Consider the conduct of the two sisters on the occasion of Lazarus’ death. St. John tells us that both the sisters, Martha first and then Mary, went to meet our Lord, and falling at His feet they each said: “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v. 21) and Martha added: “But now also I know that whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.” (v. 22.) What grand words are these! How beautifully they express on the one hand a gentle reproach on the part of the sisters, and on the other hand how forcibly faith speaks in them, the belief that even now the Friend who is endowed with such miraculous powers could do great things if He only would. Listen to and consider what St. Augustine says on this subject: “Martha did not entreat our Lord to raise her brother from the dead, for she did not know whether it would be for his welfare; she only said, I know that Thou canst do this; if Thou wilt, O do it; whether Thou wouldst do well to awaken him, that rests with Thee to decide, for it would be presumption for me to express an opinion.” “The two sisters,” St. Bernard says, “wept for their departed brother, but they did not implore our Lord to raise him from the dead; and we should do much better if in our prayers we resigned ourselves to the will of God in silence without asking anything definite of Him.” Whilst meditating upon the words of these saints, my soul, observe on the one hand the gentle, loving complaint, in which alone these two saintly sisters allowed themselves to manifest their deep regret and grief that our Lord had not come sooner, and on the other hand their no less gentle and timid petition, wherein hopeful faith spoke no less plainly than humble resignation. Finally compare your own behavior under similar circumstances with that of Martha and Mary.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.