In John’s gospel, we find ourselves standing outside the tomb of Lazarus, and watching the dramatic scene unfold – Christ calling out to a man who has been dead for four days.
And we watch in wonder, and fear, as that dead man staggers out.
Lazarus is, literally, “The Walking Dead.” But he is more than a reanimated corpse. He is a man who is given new life, and a second chance at life. And it happens for one simple reason: because Christ called—and Lazarus responded.
During this gospel reading, we encounter such a range of human emotions. Martha’s frustration – “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus’s reassurance – “Your brother will rise.” Mary’s deep sorrow. Even Christ’s own human emotions, as he weeps for someone he loves.
But the most powerful emotion may be astonishment, as what seems impossible becomes possible, as life is restored to the dead. Disbelief becomes belief. Doubt is transformed into faith.
And it begins with Christ’s dramatic call:
“Lazarus, come out!”
As we near the final days of Lent, and we encounter this gospel, I look back on what this season has meant to us. It’s been a time of repentance and reconciliation. Prayer and perseverance. A time of sacrifice.
And when I read these words of Christ, spoken to his dead friend, I can’t help but think that he is addressing them not just to Lazarus, but to all of us.
It is the call that he has offered to us from the very first day of Lent, when we stood with ashes smeared on our foreheads. We ourselves became “The Walking Dead.”
“Remember you are dust,” we were told, “and to dust you will return.” Repent. Turn back to the gospel.
Christ was saying to us, as he said to Lazarus: “Come out.”
Come out from your personal tomb. Come out from sin. Leave what is familiar, and dark, and dead. Come out. Live again.
The tears that Christ shed for Lazarus are ones he sheds for all of us who are buried in caves of human weakness and sin. And so he calls to us. And he beckons us – not with a whisper, but with a cry.
Have we heard him?
Have we answered him?
Christ’s final words in the gospel are words of quiet but profound hope: “Untie him and let him go.” Like Lazarus, we stand before God – bandaged, wounded, tied with our own personal burial cloths. We are prisoners, bound by brokenness. But he wants us to be free. He wants us to breathe again. To live again. To walk again in the Light.
Wake up, he says. Come out.
Are we willing to take those first faltering steps?
Our 40-day Lenten pilgrimage is almost over. There is still time to rediscover the zeal that we all had on Ash Wednesday, when we proudly wore that mark of penitence on our foreheads. Maybe it’s a mark a lot of us left in the bathroom sink. But we should continue to carry it. In our hearts. And on our consciences. Striving, with every day, to continue our journey. To reconcile ourselves with one another, and with God.
At the beginning of Lent, I talked about how “giving up” begins with “giving.” Now might be a good time to do a spiritual inventory. To ask ourselves what we have given. To our families. To the poor. To one another. And to God.
There is still time. In fact, there is more time. Three weeks ago, in the middle of this Lenten journey, we marked Daylight Saving Time, and gained another hour of light.
What have we done with it?
In two weeks, we will be embraced by the Light of Christ at Easter.
What will we do with that?
Next Monday, April 10th, we will have Reconciliation Monday—all the churches in the New York metropolitan area will be open for confession. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be reconciled, to know the beauty of God’s mercy, to become more than just “The Walking Dead,” but to walk among the living and embrace the light.
In a reading we heard on Ash Wednesday, St. Paul told us “Now is a very acceptable time.” Now is the moment to reconsider. To recommit. To open our hearts—and our ears.
Listen for the call of Christ—the call to come out from a place of darkness.
It is a call to begin again.
It is a call to life.