Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 26, 2023
Some years ago in a homily, I told of standing at the bedside of a priest-friend who was dying, and wrestling with one of the questions that naturally arise at such a moment: What really awaits us after death? One of my parishioners wondered if I doubted the resurrection of the body. I reassured him that I did believe in life after death, but was simply being honest about what I felt as my friend was dying.
Today’s Gospel of the raising of Lazarus is the last of the three stories we use to prepare candidates for baptism at Easter, and it’s the most dramatic. Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the tomb, still tightly wrapped in his burial bands. “Untie him,” Jesus commands, “and let him go free!”
We speak of “being buried” in the waters of baptism. Scripture scholar Raymond Brown suggests that Lazarus represents the ultimate challenge for those who are baptized in Christ: the encounter with death itself.
As I stood at the bedside of my dying colleague, I saw a look of peace on his face. Though he could not speak, he was testifying that he had faced the test and was ready to meet the Lord. May each of us hear the voice of Jesus in our final moments of life, inviting us to come forth and be set free.