by Cathy Crayton
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
“Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” ~John 11:43-44
During this Lenten season, what first speaks to me in the Gospel reading is Jesus’s participation in our humanity. Here, Lazarus, Jesus’s friend has died and Jesus weeps just as Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, weep. Jesus shares in our suffering, not only on the cross as he dies, but as someone who walked this earth like other human beings.
In this dark time for humanity — this pestilence that has gripped the entire globe — where is God now? Many, in attempts to provide comfort and a sense of security, assert with confidence that “God is in control.” I prefer to believe that God is in command. God commands us to pray; God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But God does not compel us to do so. God does not deprive us of our freedom. It is up to us to choose to pray and to love our neighbor.
At this moment many of us live and work in physical isolation from our families, friends, co-workers and our faith communities. So, what does the choice to pray and love our neighbor look like right now in this time of global suffering?
For me it looks like garbage collectors, retail clerks, first responders, bus drivers and others who put their lives on the line caring and serving others. It looks like neighbors sharing their food and rolls of toilet paper. It looks like both active and retired clergy, religious and laypeople using technology to share their faith and reflections and to celebrate mass. (Our retired pastor, a brilliant biblical scholar, invites us each morning to have coffee with him via YouTube. And yes, we eagerly accept the invite with coffee mug in hand).
The choice to pray and love looks like the tireless efforts of researchers who race toward a vaccination and a therapeutic intervention for COVID-19 and other diseases. The choice to pray and love looks like understanding that the needs of people who are house-less and hungry, who are aged, who are disenfranchised, who are lonely, who are sick and who are most vulnerable in our world have first claim of our collective conscious and our care — now especially, but always. Prayer and love look like sharing (sometimes grim) humor on Facebook that makes us forget for a moment we are in the midst of a horrific pandemic. The choice to love looks like colleagues meeting with Zoom or communicating by email not only to talk shop, but as an opportunity to check up on each other. The choice to pray and love looks like using this time of isolation and uncertainty to pray in solitude and to live not in fear, but in gratitude and hope. It looks like reconciliation with my sisters and my brothers.
But, ineffably, prayer and love looks an awful lot like Jesus beckoning Lazarus from the dank, dark tomb of disease and despair and death to the flowing waters of new life.