Today’s Gospel reading tells of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. In one exchange, Jesus says “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?” Martha responds in the affirmative. As the Evangelist tells us earlier in his Gospel, in Jesus is life. He possesses life in itself. Being the source of it, He can freely give. We confess our belief in union with Martha and all Christians up and down the ages when we celebrate the Mass today. We demonstrate this belief throughout our life, completely giving ourselves over to God.
The raising of Lazarus is like a movie trailer. It is an exciting preview of what is to come. A hint of Easter as we round the final corner toward the end of our penitential season.
Jesus came to bring an end to death. First, the spiritual death that is caused by sin. Secondly, the physical death and decay that spiritual death entails. We live in eager anticipation of the Lord bringing the full consummation of the Kingdom, where death, disease, pain, and suffering are no more. We proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection until He comes again. We hope in Christ. One day all the tombs of the earth will open like the tomb of Lazarus. Today’s passage helps us think more about our hope.
To the skeptic, this sounds more than absurd. Foolish to say the least. Yet, the apologetic discourse is upstream from the virtue of Christian hope. The hope we have in Christ is predicated on antecedent conditions, most of which are frequently ignored when someone just takes certain passages in isolation. Hope is not something that arises out of a vacuum or a spontaneous brute act of will. We do not simply think or will ourselves hopeful, in the context of theological virtue. It is a special grace of God that builds upon and works in conjunction with other graces.
The virtue of hope is a stable disposition in this regard, looking forward in assurance to what God has promised us, because of Him who promised it. We do not ‘hope’ in a vain sense. Although we cannot physically see or touch what God has said will come to pass, nonetheless, we base our lives upon it.
Hope builds upon faith, whereby we fully trust and believe in God. We completely orient our lives around the Lord, laying down our rebellious arms,, as C.S. Lewis says, and taking up our crosses. We eagerly receive the grace given to us, trusting that God will do for us what He said, even though we do not know how we will even get through the day. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Sufficient for the day, then, is its own grace.
Tomorrow is not promised to us, yet heaven is promised to those who love and serve the Lord. The former we cannot count upon, the latter we absolutely can.