Today is a sparkling, clear, cool, beautiful day here in Lufkin. But the thoughts of most of the people here are sad, because one of the five young college students killed in an automobile accident last Friday is being buried here today. The young woman from here was twenty years old—the only child of her parents. An honor student, and an exemplary young person.
When I think of things like this, I am reminded of the death of Lazarus that we read of in the gospel according to Saint John, chapter 11.
Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in Bethany, a village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, just about two miles from Jerusalem. Lazarus died. The sisters had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, but Jesus did not come at once. He deliberately allowed several days to pass before going to Bethany, so that by the time he got there, Lazarus was dead and had been buried four days before his arrival. Saint John tells us that on his arrival, Mary the sister of Lazarus, threw herself at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Was she simply grieving that Jesus had not come in time to save her brother from death, or was she actually reprimanding Our Lord for not coming sooner? Knowing Mary as we do from other passages of the gospel, I don’t think she was reprimanding him, but simply expressing her deep sorrow that now, it’s too late to save her brother.
Saint John goes on to say, “At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”
Let’s think about this, the shortest verse in the entire Bible: Jesus wept. Why did Jesus weep? Because he was sorry to know that a friend of his had died, and that the dead man’s relatives were grieving over him? But you see, Our Lord knew that within the hour, he was going to raise Lazarus from the tomb. I think there is more to Jesus’ weeping than the temporary loss of a friend. Our Lord knew that his raising of Lazarus from the dead would be a major factor in causing his enemies to want to kill him, and that after his own death, he would also rise from the tomb. So why weep?
I suspect that Our Lord wept on that occasion because he is in the presence of human death which is a sad phenomenon that ends the life of every person coming into this world, and is the source of great sorrow to the loved ones of most of them. And death came into the world as a punishment for sin. In the beginning, God did not intend for the human being to die. But he sinned, so we all die. Our mortality is a tragedy; man offends God, and then man dies.
Whatever the total explanation, the fact remains that when our Savior was in the presence of death and human grief over death, he wept. He could have done something to prevent Lazarus from dying, and he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet he wept. His Sacred Heart is tender, compassionate, loving, and capable of the deepest human emotions. And so we commend our dead, be they young or old, into the hands of this grieving Savior of humankind and take comfort in the fact that our sorrows are also felt deep in his divine heart. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.