Who is Lazarus? In many senses, each one of us is Lazarus. While each one of us will die physically, many of us have become spiritually dead and even buried. We know that we will rise with Christ on the last day. But from what spiritual death do we need to be raised today? The past few weeks of Lent have shown us that Jesus is Lord over sin, sickness, and even death. Just as he freed the woman at the well from her sinfulness, the man born blind from his blindness, and Lazarus from his death, Jesus frees us from those things that prevent us from fully living as God’s sons and daughters.
There is a lot of spiritual death in today’s society. Because of exposure to violence, destruction, hatred and other inhuman activities, many of us have become immune to the suffering around us. We’ve come to accept evil as a way of life instead of trying to destroy it. In our quest for the next thrill, we easily become bored, alienated and even lifeless. In short, we no longer see the wonder of creation or the goodness of humanity. Instead, we join the complacent, complaining crowd.
I would like to suggest that one way to get us out of our spiritual malaise is to experience a change of perspective. If we always choose to see things one way, we run the risk of becoming immune to life’s problems and challenges. That was the problem with the disciples in the gospel. They could only see death, even though Jesus was continually trying to show them life. As he continued in his ministry, Jesus angered a lot of people who wanted to remain spiritually dead. They did not want to open their eyes and hearts to God’s grace and mercy. Jesus became obnoxious to them. He had a price on his head. The leaders of the people wanted to kill him. Going back to the vicinity of Jerusalem meant certain death. So when Jesus decides to return to Bethany to show the glory of God by the raising of Lazarus, the disciples reluctantly go along, expecting to be killed along with him. However, it was not his time. Once again Jesus shows that he is Lord—even over death. In the act of raising Lazarus, Jesus proves that he is Lord and Savior over sin, sickness and death. The disciples were expecting to die in Bethany; instead they saw Jesus raise a dead man to life. The disciples had the perspective that the people were out to get Jesus; instead they saw how many people came to believe in Jesus.
Getting a new perspective means getting out of our comfort zones. The command of Jesus “untie him and let him go free” is directed at us as well. From what do we need to be freed? In order to answer that question, sometimes we need to view life from a different angle. In business terms, this is called thinking outside the box (or for you Taco Bell fans, thinking outside the bun). How can we creatively view life so that we do not fall into spiritual boredom or even death?
Instead of doing the same old, same old, try something new. For example, if you are a person who always watches the same TV programs, switch to a different channel. If you never watch sports, try watching a hockey game or baseball game. If you never go to a concert or listen to classical music, look up where a local group is performing and go hear them. If you’ve never spent time working in a garden, try it. If you always do things with a group, try doing something by yourself or vice-verse. This also goes for prayer. If you are more traditional in your prayer style, try centering prayer or meditation. If you are more of a free spirit when it comes to prayer, learn to pray the rosary or a litany. In other words, the way to prevent spiritual boredom and even spiritual death is to do something you’ve never done before (provided that it is legal and moral). Do this every so often to broaden your perspective. In thinking and acting spiritually outside the box, you will have a different opinion about the mundane problems and issues of life. You might even be able to solve some of them.
What made Jesus so popular and so reviled was that he always kept them guessing. Jesus never did the predictable. He was continually “changing it up” so to speak. In this he gives us a model. In order to be spiritually alive, we need to change our perspective every so often. We need to look for the presence of God in each person. We need to see opportunity in every event. But most of all, each of us needs to spend more time contemplating the wonder of creation and learning to appreciate the gifts and talents that God has given us.