On the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead.
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 Raising of Lazarus from the Dead.
To-day represent to yourself the grand, the touching scene of which St. John places before us so affecting a picture in his gospel. These are his words: “Jesus therefore, when He saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews that were come with her weeping, groaned in the spirit and troubled Himself, and said: Where have you laid him? They say to Him: Lord, come and see.” (St. John xi. 33, 34.) The Saviour of mankind, standing before the sepulchre of His friend was touched to the heart, and He wept.
1st. Consider the words: “And Jesus wept,” (v. 35.) He wept for the same reason as that which caused Martha and Mary to weep, and the Jews who were there present. “Christ,” says Rupert, “true to His human nature condescends so far as to shed tears, mourning with those that mourn. He first pays the tribute of affection, the tears of a friend to the man whom He is about, as his God and Lord, to raise from the dead. Perhaps however, our Lord did not shed those tears so much because Lazarus was dead, as for another reason: because, for the sake of a higher and nobler object, in order to strengthen the faith of living persons, He, his divine Friend, felt Himself compelled to call back the dead man once more to the troubles and dangers of this mortal life. This was most probably the reason why Jesus wept. Besides, He participates in the grief of those to whom He had become a brother according to the flesh; altogether the scene before us is a sublime, a deeply affecting one: God the Creator stands weeping at the sepulchre of His creature.” This one sentence will afford you abundant matter for meditation. And with such an example as this before your eyes, you will certainly feel yourself urged more than ever to obey the injunction: “Be not wanting in comforting them that weep and walk with those that mourn.” (Ecclus. vii. 38.)
2d. Consider the circumstances attending the raising of Lazarus according to the narrative given us by the Evangelist St. John. He writes: “Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the sepulchre.” (v. 38.) What, we ask, is meant by this mysterious groaning, this interior trouble our Lord experienced? Transport yourself, my soul, in spirit to the spot at that momentous instant and you will wonder no longer. Jesus is standing before the sepulchre. None can estimate the awful contrast between death and life as He can, who is the Lord of life. No eye can penetrate as His can the depths of that terrible abyss which sin has caused to yawn between heaven and earth, and no one is better acquainted with the mysteries of the tomb, the heartrending sorrows that the grave conceals both for the departed and for those who are left behind. Now, standing before the sepulchre, when the solemn moment has come, the moment of awful import which is to witness a great, an unparalleled miracle, a holy horror thrills through the sacred soul of Jesus. Watch in imagination the accomplishment of this wondrous event the raising of the dead. See how in spite of Martha’s remonstrance, the stone is rolled away, and the rigid corpse of Lazarus in which decomposition has already begun its work is revealed to the sight of all. It is a moment of horror, of breathless suspense. There our Lord stands before the tomb in the dignity of His supernatural might; His aspect is indescribably majestic; the eyes of all present are fixed on Him in eager expectancy, He opens His lips and as if an anticipation of that cry which on the last day will awaken all the dead from their graves, He utters the lordly and imperative command: “Lazarus, come forth.” And presently, we read, he that had been dead came forth, bound hands and feet with winding bands, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them: “Loose him and let him go.” (v. 44.) Now, my soul, what effect does this affecting, this impressive spectacle produce on you? Can you contemplate it and after all remain cold and unmoved? Alas, if our Lord’s commanding summons, which had power to restore new life to Lazarus remains, fails to stir your heart, the grave in which you lie must indeed be a deep one.
3d. Consider the different effect which this miracle had on those who witnessed it. While the two sisters were almost beside themselves with joy and delight and wept for gladness almost as freely as before they wept for sorrow, the Jews who were present did not all share in the pious sisters joy and happiness. St. John tells us: “Many therefore of the Jews who were come to Martha and Mary, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things that Jesus had done.” (v. 45, 46.) This they did, not with a good intention, but, as Origen asserts, in order to stir up the envy and jealousy of the Pharisees; the Ven. Bede also explains the action of those Jews as representing that of certain individuals who see the good works performed by the servants of God and in consequence pursue them with their hatred and seek to calumniate them. Thus this miracle contains two truths, one consolatory and the other the reverse. The exultant joy of the two sisters who but a short time before were plunged in grief, and the faith awakened in the hearts of the Jews who before were unbelievers, will serve to remind you for your consolation of the truth that our Lord is sometimes wont to leave those whom He loves for a time overwhelmed with grief and tribulation, to work their greater gladness later on, and their salvation and that of their friends. And the behavior of the Jews who hastened to the Pharisees sets before you the appalling truth, that through persistent abuse of divine grace, through wilful or perhaps careless opposition to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, a man may go too far, so that at last the most wonderful miracles, the most startling judgments of God, even marvels of so striking a nature as the raising of the dead, produce no impression on his heart, except in as far as they render it more obdurate. May the former truth prove a comfort to you, the latter serve as a warning.
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.