I’m boxed in!
I can’t move!
I can’t see!
And it STINKS in here!
Oh… hang on… the last thing I remember is feeling really unwell. I thought I was dying at home in bed. So, where am I?
Sounds a bit echoey in here.
Feels like cold stone underneath me.
Are these… bandages? Am I a mummy?
It’s a tomb! They’ve locked me in!
Help! Help! Can anyone hear me?
Hmm… I’m on my own. So let’s see what I’ve got. 10 fingers! 10 toes! No temperature – oh, I feel fine! I’m not dying! In fact, I’m not even ill!
I’m so glad I’m alive. There’s so much I want to do! So many things I want to say to the people I care about! I never learned to play the harp! I never learned to speak Greek! Now I can do it all! But first I have to get out of this tomb!
Oh – what’s happening? I can hear grunting! I can see some light! But there’s this wretched cloth over my face!
Is that? Can it be? Yes – I hear a voice I’d recognise anywhere! Jesus! I’m here!
“Come Out?” You want me to come out? I’m tied up like a mummy – you want me to hop out like I’m in a sack race? This is going to be so embarrassing! They’ll never stop talking about it! But Jesus! I’m coming! I’m alive!
Well, I wonder what Lazarus did when he went home? We know from the Bible that a week later he hosted a banquet with Jesus as guest of honour. There are legends that he later became a bishop in Cyprus or the South of France. But apart from that we don’t know – we can only guess.
I think it’s a pretty good guess that he grew closer to his sisters Mary and Martha. They knew that every day they spent together was a gift, and they would have made the most of it.
I think it’s a pretty good guess that they would give thanks to Jesus through prayer – and after the Last Supper, they would have known about Mass as the best way to give thanks to God.
I think it’s a pretty good guess that Lazarus would have valued the gift of life and maybe tried something new, something he’d been putting off in the busyness of life up until his fatal sickness.
Well, right now, we all get to be Lazarus. What’s happening in the world around us is a bit scary, and it means we are all ‘in the tomb’, bound up, boxed up, restricted. But that doesn’t mean we have to be afraid. We can listen to the voice of Jesus saying ‘take off the bindings! Take off the cloth covering the eyes!’ We don’t have to be boxed up by what’s happening in the world right now, just like we don’t have to be boxed up by what other people think of us.
We won’t be able to go out and meet up with other people for a few weeks, so we need to think about what we can do on our own. What gifts, what talents have I got that I’ve never had a chance to work on? Can I paint or draw? Is there a musical instrument at home I’d like to learn to play? Rather than playing games in my computer, could I learn how to code? Did you know that a young man who was a website designer is on the road to sainthood? You can look up the story of Carlo Acutis who died of cancer aged 15 – last month the Vatican decided that he can be declared ‘Blessed’, the last step before being named a saint!
We will be spending a lot of time with our families over the next few weeks – the people we share a house with, and the relatives we keep in touch with by phone. How do we keep our conversations fresh? Well, maybe there’s something you can learn from another family member. Perhaps your Mum can teach you how to bake a cake. Maybe your Dad can kick footballs at you until you’re ready to face Liverpool in a penalty shootout! Or this might be the perfect time to ask your grandparents to tell stories of how the world used to be when they were young. None of us will have our grandparents and great-aunts and uncles around forever, and it’s so easy to use a smartphone to record a conversation… later, that will be a precious memory for us.
Mary, the sister of Lazarus, famously spent time listening to Jesus, and poured precious ointment over his feet. Martha, despite her busyness, found enough time to listen to Jesus to know that he was “the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.” We can all take time at home to listen to God’s word. There are some fantastic resources online (God Who Speaks, CAFOD, Blessed Sacrament Shrine) – and if you’re following this homily on Facebook and you know a good website or resource to help families pray, please type it into the comment box! So many church organisations are making their material free-to-view for the next few months. You could run a home-study course using the free videos being made available by Sycamore, or run Youth Alpha. You can also see, for free, the 90-minute film on the life of the Virgin Mary, Full of Grace.
Is your home a Bethany? Have you prepared a place for Jesus to be with you? Maybe you already have a prayer corner in your bedroom or family room – if not, why not make one? You can put your screen in your holy place when you are following online prayers. Like Mary anointing Jesus, if you have holy things that need cleaning or repairing, this is the perfect time.
I’m going to pause now for two minutes. This is to give you time to talk about what holy things you can do at home. When will you pray together each day? And if you’re watching this alone – use the power of the Internet to connect with someone. If you’re following this sermon live on Facebook (sorry, the livestream is only for members and friends of Sion Community) and you are living alone during this crisis, just type into the comment box “I’m with Lazarus” and maybe someone else on the feed can connect with you so you can arrange to pray together daily by the power of the Internet!
Friends, there’s a lot of sickness around at the moment. Let’s remember that Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’ I’m sure Mary and Martha were anxious because Jesus didn’t come sooner. Jesus had a good reason for waiting for Lazarus to die, even though it was hard for his friends and followers – and deep down, Martha knew that there was a life beyond this life so her brother was in God’s hands. Whatever happens in the world, however tough things get, Lazarus is a sign for us that there is a life beyond this life, and that, although God doesn’t spare us from all suffering, Jesus will be there for us in the end. So come Lord Jesus, unbind us, release us, and give us life!