The Way of Love
- Sunday, April 2, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
The brother of Mary and Martha is sick. Lazarus is dying and by the time Jesus gets to the house, he will be dead and buried. We read in Scripture and will soon pay attention more closely to the narratives when Jesus “sets his face to Jerusalem.” When Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem and the cross, he stops by the house of Mary and Martha. With all the hype and energy that was going on at the time, it is Mary who sits at the feet of Jesus to listen to him.
So it is no question in the minds of these two women that the one man who can help them. The one man who needs to know that their brother Lazarus is dying is Jesus. They need him now more than ever. More importantly, Lazarus needs him now. This is his hour of need. This is their hour of need. So they send Jesus a message to come quickly.
But Jesus stays where he is two more days. When he does arrive Martha is mad. She is angry because her brother is dead and she lashes out at Jesus saying that if he was here earlier, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus could have done something. Their brother could have been saved and live. Jesus then says those well-known words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” Our gospel today is timely as it comes to us when we as a community begin to process and work through the death of two significant people in our lives, Mary Scagel and Roy Pallent. Once more we need to hear the good news that we will rise again and death does not have the last word.
As we enter into this text we must remember that this is John’s gospel and nothing in this gospel is by accident. Every word and phrase has meaning and significance. The phrase, “I am” should remind us of Exodus and the burning bush when Moses asks God who is sending him, should people ask, God says, “I am,” the Divine Name, is sending him. By using this formula Jesus is saying that God is resurrection and God is life. It is through Jesus and the way of the cross that we live. This passage is loaded with images and themes of death and resurrection. We are at the door step of Holy Week where we find ourselves immersed in the Way of the Cross and the sacrificial love of Jesus.
This is where the key lies for us. Jesus’s delay in getting to the house of Mary and Martha was not because Jesus didn’t care for Lazarus. Jesus cared deeply for Lazarus and his two sisters. It is not often that we read in the gospels of times when Jesus wept. But he wept for Lazarus. The way of the cross is the way of the sacrificial love that God has for all the People of God. Love, God’s love an example of unconditional, radical love is what has the power to save and where we find God. So as we prepare to journey to the cross with Jesus. As we begin our own journey to Jerusalem and confront our own mortality, we find the love of God in the person of Jesus. This is the gospel we live for. This is the gospel Jesus died for. This is the gospel so many others have died for and yes, this is the gospel that one day you and I will die for. That God is love and therefore we are people of love that work to embody the love of God in our daily lives.
The essence of God’s love seeks always to find the good in the other as Bishop Michael Curry and others have reminded us. We are people of love because the way of love is the Jesus way, and we always look to live more fully into the way of God and the way of love. The journey to the grave and to the resurrection is through love. We are people of love, people who look for the good in the other. We are people of the cross.
This can often be a hard road for us. It is full of twists and turns and ways for us to stumble and fall short. It is hard sometimes to find the good in the other. It is especially hard to find the good in those who hurt us, who persecute our neighbors. No question about it, it is hard to love sometimes. But this is the way of the cross, and a way we are called to live into. Jesus reminds us today that, “I am the resurrection and the life” and that it is through Jesus and God’s radical and unconditional love for us that we become more fully alive. The time has come for us prepare ourselves and set our faces with Jesus to Jerusalem as we walk with our Lord to the foot of the cross. As we do so, may we sit with Mary at our Lord’s feet and listen to him.