Our Gospel today focuses our attention on death. Death is like winter. When the winter time of the year comes, despite appearances to the contrary, life does not cease, it merely goes underground. The outward dies, but not the core. The springtime of the year will see the perennial plants pushing up through the soil once again, trees will sprout leaves, and life will be evident once again.
When the winter of death claims a human life, life seems to cease altogether. Death seems to rob us of everything.
When death came for Lazarus, his sisters were plunged into grief. It is natural, right, and healthy that people should grieve when death claims a friend or family member. Jesus did not leave them alone in their grief. He came to them and was so overcome with sorrow that he shed tears himself. The very act of breaking down tells us more about Jesus’ heartfelt sympathy and love than any words.
But Jesus didn’t leave it at that. He challenged them to have faith in himself. “I am the resurrection and the Life,” he proclaimed, “those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” Then he posed the question to Martha, “Do you believe this?” And Martha makes her profession of faith in who Jesus is, “YES, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.”
“I am the Resurrection and the Life” is one of the greatest statements in the Gospel. It tells us that Jesus is the One who holds the key to life and death. He experienced the winter of death, but by rising from the dead, he broke the power of death forever. Jesus entered into the dark realm of death and emerged victorious.
A harsh winter with mounds of snow and bitter winds can make it difficult to believe in spring. But we know from experience that spring will come again. Just as the expectation of spring takes the sting out of winter, so the resurrection of Jesus takes the sting out of death for us. As the Apostle Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Eternal life is not something that begins when we die. Through the waters of baptism the seed of eternal life was planted in us and continues to grow until it comes into its fullness through death. The good news is that we are already eternal creatures. In death, when we shed the mortal covering, we will see the fullness of who we are.
— Father Dennis, April 2, 2017