“Lazarus is dead”

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Philosopher Peter Kreeft wrote: “If Christianity is true, we must believe it because it is true. If it is not true, we must not believe it, even if it does make us better people… You can’t manipulate truth for the sake of anything else. Truth is an absolute.” (Your Questions, God’s Answers).

Yes.  Truth is an absolute.  But I don’t think everyone got the memo.  Of those who did, there are many in the industrialized world that used it to start a fire.  In the more sophisticated parts of our eyes-wide-open world, Catholicism is a shrinking religion; though don’t worry because ours isn’t the only religion that is shrinking – they all are.  Each year more people claim to be of no religion at all even though they still think themselves very “spiritual”; they have no hang-ups cobbling together an internet-approved, self-affirmed, purpose-driven life where “gain is godliness” (1Tim 6:5).  It is, in fact, a good thing that all other religions are losing members – they ought to, they are lies – but Catholicism is absolute Truth, it should not be in retreat especially to all the self-infatuated me-me-me spirituality.

Of those who ignored or trashed their “Truth is an absolute” memo, there’s little reason to expect them to “get a clue” any time soon.  Why?  Because it’s all too often our nature.  Our Lord told Nicodemus, who came to him by night: “Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” (Jn 3:19).  And it is sometimes painfully obvious that the Church isn’t doing enough to condemn sin and convert sinners, nor are we exercising the dominating influence on the secular culture that we ought to.  Authentic, heritage Catholic culture is superior to all others and we should be proud of it and do our best to spread it because it is the Gospel which is the “power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16).

Our service to the Gospel is hindered in part because we isolate our voice from the broader society.  We are not professing the Gospel, in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2), partly because we battle amongst ourselves (we sometimes work harder to sabotage one another than we do to defeat the works of the devil).  And our service also suffers because we allow ourselves to imitate the wicked culture around us – we ape their worst habits, their worst passions and their worst sins.  Sins that should never even be mentioned amongst us are all too common among us.  I could picture the Apostle Paul writing to us in our time as he wrote to the Corinthians saying that: “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans… and you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?” (1 Cor 5:1-2).

Maybe you’ve heard, but there’s supposedly a “New Evangelization” afoot in the Church.  Sadly, the focus group that was tasked with figuring out exactly what’s “new” about it, still seems to be unsure what it’s all about.  This unsureness can give way to an indifferent apathy; and I’m sure many of you have noticed that there is a cancerous mechanization of evil that more and more seeks to fracture and dehumanized human society – it is at the gates of the Church.  The chaos’ horrible presence is palpable – proverbially, we can “feel it in the air around us,” and sometimes we can see it at work, but we are indecisive and wait with an ever-growing sense of dread, for someone to tell us what to do.  Some of us, God have mercy, are even caught up in the rat-race of infatuation with worldliness – we indulge and over-indulge our selfish and frivolous sensuality; but even for those of us who are intoxicated with the world’s glitter and know ourselves to be, as it were, dancing cheek-to-cheek with the devil it becomes ever harder and harder to shake off the sense that there’s a big-bad-wolf stalking Christians and we’re very unprepared for what’s coming next.

Playwright Samuel Beckett, a devil-vangelist for the prince of modernity that stalks us, mocked humanity’s inertia.  He famously wrote: “Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot.”  Godot, of course, whoever Beckett intends him to represent – though I highly suspect he’s talking about God Almighty – never shows up.  The characters in Beckett’s play wait for him but Godot never shows up, but because he’s supposed to show up the characters never do anything but wait and wait and wait and joke of suicide.

Truth, remember, is an absolute and absolutes don’t wait… they are.  In this sense, waiting is death, being – doing – is life.

We are typically very casual with our use of the word “absolute.”  Most of what we believe to be absolute, be it scientific or philosophical, is contingent – meaning that it does not exist independently of other things.  Something that is absolute is changeless, timeless, immovable; and, in the absolute sense, only God is changeless, timeless and immovable – God alone is not contingent on anyone or anything for His existence.  He is the absolute ABSOLUTE; and He is not a thing at all but three Persons eternally co-existing.  We, being caught-up in that Absolute which is God, are not born to wait any more than it is His nature to wait.  He is and so also, we must be in Him.  The Church never lingers, but ever presses “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).  We ever, in the words of today’s Introit: “GO unto the altar of God, even unto the God of our joy and gladness” (Ps. 43).

The Gospel which tells us of Lazarus dying and then being called back to life is a story for our time.  Our Lord beholding the tomb and the sadness of the people He loved, allowed Himself to weep.

What an amazing thing: the God-Man weeping for the love of one whom He would shortly bring back to life, for one whom He would shortly give up His own life on the Cross.  We cannot think weeping is a sign of weakness seeing that Our Lord gave Himself over to it.  Instead weeping, especially Our Lord’s weeping, showed His deepest sympathy for our pitiable condition.  If there was any thought that Christ was merely legally fulfilling divine justice by dying on the Cross for the sins of His friends, those thoughts are nullified by His weeping.

Weeping is not rational but it is one of the soul’s purest expressions.  How much does God love us?  Enough to weep for the death of one He loved; enough to die for us who are dead in “trespasses and sins” (Ep 2:1).

Why did Our Lord not hurry to the town of Bethany to save Lazarus from death?  He did not go immediately because He clearly wished Lazarus to die.  He delayed His journey because He did not intend to only heal His friend but rather to raise him from the dead.  In doing so, Our Lord transformed evil, represented by Lazarus’ death, into good, by calling him back to life.  Our Lord demonstrated the transformation of the material body into an instrument of the spiritual.

Our Lord does not deal in speculation.  He is deliberate, decisive and active.  Lazarus, as we sometimes are, was not decisive, not deliberate and was inactive.  His indecision was his death.

Truth is an absolute, so either we are dead like Lazarus in the tomb or we are alive through responding to the call of Christ.  There are two states of being that lie before us – two choices.  In one state, there is sorrow without love – this is inaction, ever waiting to someday embrace the Gospel, it is wallowing in the slavery of sensuality and despair.  And in the other state, there is love without sorrow – this is a life of action, walking in the Gospel of Christ experiencing His consolations and living free from the bondage and weakness of sensuality and victim-hood.

On earth, there is always suffering, but there is not always love.  Suffering without Christ, without love, is hell.  Suffering with Christ, with love, is heaven.

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