This weekend we have the beautiful account of the raising of Lazarus from death by Our Lord. In the course of the account, the shortest verse in the Bible occurs; it is John 11: 35 and it says very simply: Jesus wept. I would suggest that often, we meditate on the weeping of Our Lord and ask ourselves why he wept. That might be an indiscreet question: how can we know the depths of any heart but our own, and especially the sacred heart of Jesus? Yet, even though we might not be able to plumb those depths, we can at least get some idea of what went on in the mind, heart, and emotions of our savior as he was led to the tomb where his friend Lazarus had been buried.
Let me suggest some of these possibilities. First, Jesus is a fully human being who can love deeply and can be deeply saddened by the death of a friend of his. Then, he grieves not only over the death of Lazarus, but also over the sorrow of Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, who are profoundly affected by the death of their brother. In addition to this, Our Lord knows that his raising of Lazarus, which he was going to do in just a few minutes, was going to infuriate Jesus’ enemies, call forth from them a great deal of malice, hatred, hostility, even to the point of murder. So the great act of mercy which Jesus is about to perform will be a cause of great evil. And that evil would bring about his own terrible sufferings and death. And not only his sufferings and death, but the sufferings of his Mother, whom he loved as only a divine Redeemer can love his mother whose heart beat in unison with his own. Certainly, one of the most painful aspects of Our Lord’s passion and death was the grief that it caused his mother, who stood at the foot of the cross and became the Mother of Sorrows—Mater Dolorosa. All of that would have been painful enough if every single human being, past, present, and future, would be saved and brought to heaven by those sufferings. But that is apparently not the case; some will reject the redemption offered by Christ and choose their own fate. One of Jesus’s own twelve apostles, namely Judas Iscariot, would probably be one of these. How could a man who had lived in closest intimacy with Our Lord for about three years turn against him and betray him to his enemies? And then go out and hang himself because he did not understand Jesus’ willingness to forgive him even for this monstrous sin? Our Lord said of him, “It would better if he had never been born.”
Death is an evil and a source of grief for those who die and those who lose loved ones in death. When Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus, his cosmic sorrow—the sorrow of the Savior who was to redeem the entire human race—embraced my death and yours. And my sorrow over the loss of my loved ones, and yours over the death of those you have loved. So you and I are involved and included in this raising of Lazarus from the tomb, and in the resurrection of Christ himself from his tomb to which the raising of Lazarus will lead very soon. In this event, Our Lord says “I am the resurrection.” And Saint Martha says “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: Father Brown composed this message some years ago.