Lazarus: “I want to live”

The story of Lazarus on the fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A and in years when catechumens are preparing for initiation at the Easter Vigil) is well known.

Messengers on behalf of Martha and Mary speak to Jesus.

Jesus speaks to the messengers and to his disciples.

The disciples then converse with Jesus.

When Jesus arrives at Bethany, Martha speaks to Jesus and the two converse.

Martha speaks to Mary.

Mary speaks to Jesus.

Bystanders speak to Jesus and ask questions about his abilities and intentions.

Jesus and Martha converse.

Jesus prays aloud.

Jesus summons Lazarus from the tomb.

Jesus instructs the bystanders to release Lazarus from the burial cloths that bind him.

Neither in this pericope nor in any gospel passage does Lazarus speak.

Using the words of a song by John Denver, I imagine the dead Lazarus imploring Jesus:

I want to live, I want to grow, I want to see, I want to know,

I want to share what I can give, I want to be,

I want to live, I want to grow, I want to see, I want to know,

I want to share what I can give, I want to be, I want to live.

I want to live, I want to grow, I want to see, I want to know,

I want to share what I can give, I want to be

I want to live

I want to live

I want to live

Living is to know, to grow, to see, to know, to share what one can give.

From all eternity, I imagine the Son anticipating his entry into the time and space of human history saying these same words and longing to share them with humanity.  From his cross and from his own tomb, about which we will hear in the days ahead, I imagine the Son saying these words.  Risen and with his friends again—and unlike Lazarus, leaving his burial cloths behind—I imagine him saying these words.

In our time of civil strife, racial tension, rampant disease, famine, flood, fire, war . . . in our time I struggle to hear the Risen One still singing and I try to raise my own voice to join the song.

I look forward to being with an assembly and encountering the Risen One in Word proclaimed and in those gathered around me.  I look forward to Communion and taking within me these words of the Risen One and hymning the Risen One in the world with fellow believers.

2 comments

  1. Walter Burghardt used to refer to the Eugene O’Neill play Lazarus Laughed in his homilies on this Gospel story.

  2. It may have been Walter Burghardt who introduced me to Lazarus laughed. Specifically the lines: Laugh with me. Death is dead, Fear is no more. There is only life. There is only laughter.

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