“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (Jn. 11:21-27)
At a recent school Mass, I spoke to the students about fear. I mentioned that I had been afraid of the dark when I was younger, and that I was still scared of snakes now that I am older. And I asked them about things that might frighten them. As usual, I got some great answers. Children were afraid of spiders, snakes, bears, guns and cockroaches. Boy, that brought back some memories of the first time I tried to swat a roach off a wall only to have it fly right into my face!
After a brief discussion of these “lesser” fears, I asked what was the scariest thing ever. And the first raised hand gave me the answer I was looking for: “dying.”
Death is frightening. We fear dying, and we fear that our loved ones might die. Death fills us with terror and doubt. And that is precisely why Jesus came into the world. He came to die for us, and in doing so to not only conquer death but to calm our fears about dying.
Easier said than done isn’t it? No matter how much of a brave face we might put on, death is still frightening.
And death is something about which should be meditating about over these next few weeks. Before we get to Easter, we have to go through Good Friday. Since we know the end of the story, we might be able to draw strength from Easter as we meditate upon the Cross, but that shouldn’t give us a pass to ignore it. The Cross is the means of our salvation. The Cross is our weapon against evil. The Cross is spes nostra – our only hope. Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, as we hear in this week’s Gospel, prepared the disciples for witnessing the death of Jesus. They saw in this miracle that Jesus had command over death. But that didn’t stop them from being afraid and running away when Jesus was arrested. They still feared for their lives.
We might still be filled with the terror of death, and that’s why we confront it. But we confront it in the person of Jesus. Look up at the crucifix. Be not afraid. Our Lord faced the fear of death once and for all. And He overcame it.
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty