I find today's Gospel difficult to understand: Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead! He doesn't have to; he could leave Lazarus in the tomb, but he doesn't. Lazarus, Mary and Martha are siblings and also very good friends of Jesus. The bonds uniting them all are strong and close, so Lazarus' death is deeply grieved. Why doesn't Jesus let nature stay its course since we all must die at some time or other? In today's Gospel Jesus declares that he raises Lazarus back to life to show the power and glory of God, to demonstrate that God is master of both life and death and that death is not the final reality. Life is : life in abundance!
The raising of Lazarus causes wonder and amazement to those who witness it. But it also condemns Jesus to die because the religious authorities of the time cannot tolerate such an exceptional man, a man holding a power they can neither understand nor contain. They consider his power to raise the dead a threat to their power over the people. In their estimation, Jesus has to be put to death. As we know, within a short time, Jesus confronts that reality head on!
There are two ways we can confront the reality of our own death. The first is to worry about it, deny it, delay it, try to avoid it because we're afraid of dying. This way is not good. Jesus tells us so. He says "Can all your worrying add even a single moment to your life? Of course not!" Worry does not help. In fact, worry shortens life and hastens death.
There is another way of confronting death, illustrated by this story:
Once upon a time, in a small pond in the muddy waters under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a good life in the pond with few disturbances and interruptions.
Every now and then however, sadness would come to the beetle community when one of their fellow beetles would climb up the stem of the lily pad and never again be seen. When that happened they knew their friend and companion was dead : gone forever.
Then one day, the little water beetle himself felt an irresistible urge to climb up the stem; but he was determined he would not leave forever; he would come back to tell his friends what he found at the top. When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was so tired and the sun was so warm that he had to nap. As he slept his body changed. When he awoke, he had become a handsome blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body designed for flight. So fly he did!
As he soared, he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a far better way of living than he had ever known or imagined. Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they must be thinking by now that he was dead. He wanted to go back to tell them he was more alive than ever, that his life was not ended but fulfilled. But his new dragonfly body would not let him go down into the water. He was unable to return to share the good news with his friends. But he understood that their time would come, and they too would know what he now knew. So raising his strong, broad wings, he flew off to his joyous new life.
Dear people, if God provides that well for the lowly water beetle, can we imagine what lies in store for us when we die? May God's goodness be reflected in the life we now live, and even more in the abundant life to come!