On the Resurrection of Lazarus
"It Is a Reality That Goes Beyond the Limits of Our Reason"
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
There are only two weeks until Easter, and the biblical readings of this Sunday all speak of resurrection. They do not yet speak of Jesus' resurrection -- which will irrupt as something absolutely new -- but of our resurrection, the one to which we aspire and that Christ himself granted to us, rising from the dead. In effect, death is for us like a wall that keeps us from seeing what lies beyond; and yet our heart desires to go beyond this wall, and even if we are unable to know what it hides, we nevertheless think about it, we imagine it, we express our yearning for eternity with symbols.
To the Hebrew people, in exile far from Israel, the prophet Ezekiel announces that God will open the tombs of the deported people and bring them back to their land, to lay them to rest in peace (cf. Ezekiel 37:12-14). This ancestral aspiration of man to be buried together with his fathers is a longing for a "fatherland" that will receive him at the end of his earthly toil. This notion does not yet contain the idea of a personal resurrection from the dead, which appears only toward the end of the Old Testament, and still at the time of Jesus it was not accepted by all of the Jews. After all, even among Christians, faith in the resurrection and eternal life is often accompanied by many doubts and much confusion, because it is a reality that goes beyond the limits of our reason, and requires an act of faith. In today's Gospel -- the resurrection of Lazarus -- we hear the voice of faith speak from the lips of Martha, Lazarus' sister. In reply to Jesus who says to her: "Your brother will rise again," she says: "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:23-24). But Jesus responds: "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he die, he will live" (John 11:25-26). Here is the novelty that breaks and goes beyond every barrier! Christ destroys the wall of death, in him there dwells the fullness of God, who is life, eternal life. For this reason death did not have power over him; and Lazarus' resurrection is the sign of his complete dominion over physical death, which before God is like a dream (cf. John 11:11).
But there is another death, which cost Christ the most difficult struggle, indeed the price of the cross: It is spiritual death, sin, which threatens to ruin the existence of every man. Christ died to defeat this death, and his resurrection is not a return to the previous life, but the opening to a new reality, a "new earth," finally reconnected to God's heaven. This is why St. Paul wrote: "If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you" (Romans 8:11). Dear Brothers, let us turn to the Virgin Mary, who already participates in this Resurrection, that she might help us to declare with faith: "Yes, O Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11:27), to discover truly that he is our salvation.
[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]
I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Lenten Angelus prayer, including those from the Cathedral School of Skara, Sweden. In today's Gospel, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead as a sign that he himself is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). Let us renew our faith in Christ's promises as we prepare to unite ourselves to the Church's celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's abundant blessings!
[In Italian he said:]
I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you, have a good Sunday.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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