>The New Life
>”In that part of the book of my memory before which little can be read, there is a heading, which says: ‘Incipit vita nova: Here begins the new life’.”
So begins the Introduction to La Vita Nova, The New Life, written by Dante.
With this week’s Gospel from John 11:1-45, we are witnesses to a new life – both spiritual and physical.
This scripture brings an end to Jesus’ earthly ministry and in a sensational way, as if Jesus is pushing the agenda here. He has been giving the apostles clues as to the next chapter of the story, yet it hasn’t sunk in yet. What better way to hammer home the message that one is the Son of God by bringing a man four days dead back to life?
I love this story, for it tells of unconditional love, unwavering faith and unfathomable power through the working of God in Christ.
Jesus is en route to Bethany when he learns that his friend Lazarus lies near death. Rather than pick up speed and hurry, Jesus takes his time so that he arrives too late to do anything – or does he? We hear from Martha, Lazarus’ sister, a word or two of scolding: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” and then affirmation of Jesus’ unique relationship with God: “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” This is unwavering faith and love, knowledge that in God all things are possible.
And so it happens. Lazarus is brought back from the dead, but not before Jesus is disturbed at his friend Mary’s distress and the grief of those who were with her. The Gospeller tells us that Jesus, greatly disturbed, goes to the tomb and weeps and returns again, still disturbed. I used to wonder why Jesus would be so unhappy when he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead; perhaps we told this, in this very spiritual and mystical of Gospels, to show the human side of Jesus. We are shown a Jesus who is like us.
Or, could be be that Jesus was anticipating, even fearing, his own human limitations and his death?
Whatever the case, Jesus prays to God that those who were present might believe in his power to do God’s will on earth, that they may finally understand. Lazarus comes out of the tomb. He has new life, reborn through the saving acts of God through Christ.
As we approach Holy Week, we are given the promise of a new life when we proclaim the risen Lord on Easter Day. We are given the opportunity to climb out of our self-made tombs of despair, stress, selfishness, self-pity and give ourselves totally to God and give God control of our hearts. Releasing ourselves from this kind of death will enable us to live out the Gospel and serve one another as Christ serves us.
That’s not a bad life, is it? It’s the new life I want, and maybe you do to.
Go forth in Christ, dear ones!