The Life of the World to Come

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Most of us who have lived more than a few years have experienced death in one form or another.  Maybe we’ve lost a loved one.  Perhaps we’ve lost a job.  All losses, when deeply felt, result in suffering.  We often become like Martha and Mary and their friends, who wailed at the tomb of Lazarus and comforted each other in their grief.

However, today’s gospel story about the raising of Lazarus, raises many questions. Let’s see if some of them connect with our own lives.  We might ask, do we also need “signs” in order to believe in the power or divinity of Jesus?  Are we moved by how personal Jesus was with his grieving friends?  Or is the story simply about God’s mercy?   Is it about Jesus’ calling us out of our tombs of depression or timidity into new life?

I think that we all hear this story according to our spiritual needs.  I know that sometimes I identify with Mary and Martha, occasionally with Lazarus, but most often with the mourners.

For me, the meaning of the story is very simple.  Despite all the difficulties that this journey can bring, life wins.  Mercy triumphs. This world is not all there is.  Science tells us that energy cannot disappear, so can the beautiful life energy that God has given to us vanish?  I think not.

Native American people teach their children not to fear death; that when we have completed what the Creator has asked us to do, we will simply go home to Him.  We know that Lazarus died again, but Mary and Martha already believed that he would rise again on the last day.  Like them, we can be at peace.

At Mass each Sunday we say “I believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”  That doesn’t mean that we intellectually agree to a series of truths.  It means that we dare to base our lives on our faith that God is near, pouring out merciful love in the midst of pain, injustice, and death.

Dorothy Hathway, CSJA