Perhaps because I feel as if I have been brought back to life after a 12-day siege with the flu, I have been thinking a lot about Lazarus. It’s such a deep and wonderful Gospel with Jesus standing at the end of the tomb, peering into the darkness and calling us back to life: “Lazarus, Come out!”
It’s that kind of summoning back to life, the invitation to unbind ourselves from the things that tie us up that gives such power to our relationship with God. Lent is a time of becoming aware of how much God longs for a deeper relationship with us, one where we realize that God is not in our minds, but deeply settled in our hearts, just waiting for us to notice. It’s a gift of faith that I deeply wish for those I love the most.
My dad, who died about 9 years ago, was always terrified of death. He actually dwelled on it a lot, but it was often in kind of a maudlin way and it was clear he was afraid of it.
Now, when I think back on his life, I can also see that he was raised to be terrified of God. He knew that at the end, he was going to be punished for his bad life.
My dad was a hard man in many ways but finally, toward end of his life, I had the grace to see him with new eyes, maybe looking at him as Jesus does. He had lived a good life, raised six children and did his best. In his faith life, he never missed Mass. He read a number of Catholic magazines and lots of books and in retirement often had long conversations with his pastor about Church issues, Church politics, and reform.
But perhaps he could never move his relationship with God from his head to his heart. It was rare for him to talk about his relationship with God, but when he did, it was clearly one of fear with God as a judge. It didn’t seem to be a warm relationship but more cautious and leery.
He never had the sense that at the end, he would be falling into the arms of a loving God.
He didn’t know he would hear Jesus saying, “Cletus, come out!”