Lenten Reflections 2017: Fifth Week of Lent

February 16, 2017

By: Marianne Race, CSJ of LaGrange Park, IL  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Untie him and let him go

The gospel story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11: 1 – 45) is a love story. One can sense the deep grief Martha and Mary feel at the death of their brother. One can see the intimate friendship this family has with Jesus. They know him. They know his mission. They turn to him in this time of sorrow and need. His presence gives them hope. The unbelievable happens when Jesus arrives in Bethany several days after Lazarus was buried. Imagine their puzzlement when he said, “Roll away the stone.” And then imagine the joy they felt when they heard those words, “Untie him and let him go.” Their brother was alive!

How welcome those words would be to someone who is incarcerated. The loss of freedom is first felt in the experience of confinement. The standard size of a prison cell is six by eight feet. An adult, male or female, can only take a few steps back and forth in a space this size.  The inability to see the sky or take in fresh air, to go for a walk or see a loved one adds an emotional dimension to these physical boundaries. Though one’s heart is beating and blood is pulsing through your veins the experience of is not unlike being buried.

When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ tomb, a cave with the opening closed up. He asked to gain entrance. Martha cautioned him that there would be a stench, emphasizing the certainty that her brother was dead. Then Jesus paused to pray. He thanked God for always hearing him. After praying he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus heard him and came out. He is raised by hearing Jesus. There is new life in Lazarus because he heard the voice of the shepherd.

Whether we are in an actual prison cell or tied up with straps strips of our own making we, too, can be set free, untied and let go by hearing that Voice that calls us back to life.