Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Tomb, the Stench, the Bonds

The story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11: 1-45) has so much to reflect upon today. I want to concentrate on three things. First, the tomb. The tomb is where things that are dead are placed. It is dark, cold, and remote. The living are separated from it, such as with the stone in today's gospel. There are parts of each of our lives that are dead and need to be buried. Those parts that have kept us from being the person we are called to be. Whether lies, unfaithfulness, gossip, stealing, disobedience - those things we call sin are to be buried in order to be rid of them.
Why is this necessary? Because of the second thing for today's reflection - the stench. They did not want Jesus to open the tomb because Lazarus had been dead for four days, and the smell would be terrible. (Remember - no embalming was used.) Sin has a way of stinking. And, just as any bad odor, it clings to and remains on anyone who comes close. Putting the dead body in the tomb contains the stench and keeps it from clinging to others.
The third point for our reflection is the bonds. When Lazarus came forth from the tomb, we are told that he was "tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." Jesus commanded others to "untie him and let him go". You see, these bonds would have enabled the stench, the remnants of death, to cling to him. And Jesus did not want this for Lazarus.
Now, as we continue in Lent, I cannot help but think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of this Gospel. Our sins need to be buried, because they stink. Jesus calls us forth to a new way of living, calls us out of the tomb. And we need to have the bonds, the remnants removed. This is exactly what happens when we confess and receive the absolution of the priest. We recognize those parts of our life that are dead, that stink, and we ask that they be forgiven. Many people think that they can just go to God, that they have no need of a priest to have their sins forgiven. But Jesus realized that the bonds of sin can remain and enable the stink of death to cling to us. Just as He asked others to remove the bonds from Lazarus (notice He did not do it Himself), so too He asks priests to remove the bonds of sin from His brothers and sisters. For this reason, I encourage you to consider participating in this wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation during these last weeks of Lent. It is the best way to the call of Jesus to "come out" of the tomb and into the new life of joy and peace with God and others.

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