Monthly Scripture Reflection

“Take away the stone.”
John 11:39

This April as Lent winds down and we enter the glories of the Easter season, we have much to process. How do we get rid of those things that could block our ability to bask in the joys of the Resurrection?

Many phrases in April’s scripture readings are like mirrors—look in them to see what in us needs improving. Isaiah says God “opens my ear that I may hear.” Do we just listen or really hear? St. Paul tells the Philippians that Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient.” How do we check our pride and refrain from “following our own way?” “At the name of Jesus every knee should bend.” Do we even bow our heads—or worse, do we take that name in vain?

What strikes us from the Holy Week readings: The Passion according to St. Matthew on Palm Sunday and that of St. John on Good Friday; the Last Supper on Holy Thursday? The betrayal, the denial, the false witnesses, the scourging and mockery, the repentance, the people standing under the cross or those watching from a distance? How about all the lessons from the Old Testament on Holy Saturday? Are we supportive of people in their hour of need? Have we ever betrayed someone, not come to their defense, lied? Had our faith shaken? Been asleep when we needed to be alert?

Ah, but look at the boundless love and mercy, limitless helps that await us when we have faith! In Ezekiel God says, “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live.” In the Exodus story God “passed over” the faithful who had followed his instructions, and they were thus enabled to “pass over” the split Red Sea and head for the Promised Land. In Isaiah God says, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back.” “My love shall never leave you.” Do we trust that “God will provide” as he promised Abraham? Baruch speaks of the “commandments of life”—thus “Blessed are we…for what pleases God is known to us!” Ezekiel again, “I will cleanse you…I will give you a new heart” replacing “your stony hearts.” “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

And then we have Jesus, fulfilling the prophesies and promises. At the Last Supper he found a way to be with us forever: “Do this in remembrance of me.” And he gave us an example of service as he washed the disciples’ feet: “As I have done for you, you should also do.” Then in his infinite love Jesus underwent the agonies of crucifixion and death in order to redeem us. In the epistle to the Romans we learn that since “we who were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death” and thus “we shall also be united with him in resurrection.” The Acts of the Apostles on Easter affirms for us that “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sin through him.”

In John’s Gospel the disciple at the empty tomb “saw and believed.” But are we, as in St. Luke’s Gospel, “slow of heart to believe” and thus find it hard to “recognize” Jesus? (Perhaps in the people around us?) Will Jesus remind us, as he did Thomas, that “Blessed as those who have not seen and have believed?” On the last Sunday in April St. Peter tells us to “conduct yourself with reverence…realizing that you were ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ.”

That opening quote, “Take away the stone,” is from the story of raising Lazarus from the dead. How much faith his sisters Mary and Martha expressed: “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” and “I know that [Lazarus] will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Then Jesus spoke plainly, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” Did our Lent make us ready to hear Jesus say to us,

“Untie him and let him go.”
John 11:44