Lazarus.jpgIf you ever find yourself in Oxford make your way to the chapel of New College. There you will find a truly remarkable statue of Lazarus by Jacob Epstein. It is in white marble. As you look you will see the bands of death being stretched round the body of Lazarus almost to breaking point. He is being dragged reluctantly from the grave. This reluctance to come forth from the place of safety and death is further emphasised by the fact that his head is turned backwards as he is being pulled back to life. That beautiful piece of sculpture offers a profound insight into the story of Lazarus found in John’s Gospel:- Resistance to true freedom.

To get inside the story we need to identify our own resistance to removing the stone covering the cave where the body lay buried along with our resistance to believing the word of Jesus that endlessly gives life.

Having taken the stone away listen to the word spoken in a loud voice “Lazarus come out”. A loud voice reaching down into the very depths of all that is life taking: That echoes through the ages and that cannot be resisted. The command “Unbind him and let him go” reflect the word spoken to Moses from the Burning Bush:- “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt” – the house of slavery.

These images form the basis of the Third Scrutiny as the Elect prepare themselves within their parish communities for the Easter Vigil. In fact for both the individual and the community the questions raised are demanding indeed and reach into the psyche of both:

  • What am I reluctant to reveal about myself or my community?
  • What in my life am I reluctant to change?
  • What do I or we want to keep hidden away?
  • What do I or we need to do to set others free?
  • What word or command of Jesus do I most resist?
  • What word or command of Jesus echoes deep within me?
  • From what do I or my community need to be unbound and set free?

The prayer prayed over the Elect and on behalf of the community has much to offer to these reflections. The prayer is geared towards those who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil but can easily be adapted for those already one with us through baptism or for the community as a whole. The lines or words in italics are offered as a possible adaptation.

“Father of life and God not of the dead but of the living,
you sent your Son to proclaim life,
to snatch us from the realm of death,
and to lead us to the resurrection.

Free these elect (us)
from the death-dealing power of the spirit of evil,
so that they (we) may witness
to their (our) new life in the risen Christ,
for he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

(Then with hands outstretched)

Lord Jesus,
by raising Lazarus from the dead
you showed that you came that we might have life
and have it more abundantly.

Free (us) from the grasp of death
those who await your life-giving sacraments
(as we celebrate your life-giving sacraments)
and deliver them from the spirit of corruption.
(and continue to deliver us from the spirit of corruption)

Through your Spirit, who gives life,
fill them (us) with faith, hope and charity,
that they (we) may live with you always
in the glory of your resurrection
for you are Lord for ever and ever. Amen”

A thought!

“Sickness struggles to own the world. I want you to live.
Live, do you hear me? Half-living is a safe hell.
The house I build is for souls who would be well.”
‘The house I build’ by Brendan Kennelly