The Word Among Us

Saints & Heroes Resources

Awakened from Death

Pope Benedict Reflects on the Raising of Lazarus

Awakened from Death: Pope Benedict Reflects on the Raising of Lazarus

The gospel of the resurrection of Lazarus [John 11:1-45] . . . concerns the last “sign” fulfilled by Jesus, after which the chief priests convened the Sanhedrin and deliberated killing him, and decided to kill the same Lazarus who was living proof of the divinity of Christ, the Lord of life and death.

Actually, this gospel passage shows Jesus as true Man and true God. First of all, the Evangelist insists on his friendship with Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. He emphasizes that “Jesus loved” them (John 11:5), and this is why he wanted to accomplish the great wonder. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him out of sleep” (11:11), he tells his disciples, expressing God’s viewpoint on physical death with the metaphor of sleep. God sees it exactly as sleep, from which he can awaken us. Jesus has shown an absolute power regarding this death, seen when he gives life back to the widow of Nain’s young son (see Luke 7:11-17) and to the twelve-year-old girl (see Mark 5:35-43). Precisely concerning her, he said, “The child is not dead but sleeping” (5:39), attracting the derision of those present. But in truth it is exactly like this: bodily death is a sleep from which God can awaken us at any moment.

This lordship over death does not impede Jesus from feeling sincere “compassion” for the sorrow of detachment. Seeing Martha and Mary and those who had come to console them weeping, Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” and lastly, “wept” (John 11:33, 35). Christ’s heart is divine-human: in him God and man meet perfectly, without separation and without confusion. He is the image, or rather, the incarnation of God who is love, mercy, paternal and maternal tenderness, of God who is Life. Therefore, he solemnly declared to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” And he adds, “Do you believe this?” (11:25-26). It is a question that Jesus addresses to each one of us: a question that certainly rises above us, rises above our capacity to understand, and it asks us to entrust ourselves to him as he entrusted himself to the Father. Martha’s response is exemplary: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world” (11:27). Yes, O Lord! We also believe, notwithstanding our doubts and darkness; we believe in you because you have the words of eternal life. We want to believe in you, who give us a trustworthy hope of life beyond life, of authentic and full life in your kingdom of light and peace.

An excerpt from The Joy of Knowing Christ by Pope Benedict XVI (The Word Among Us Press, 2009).

Comments