When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” ~ John 11:43-44 (NIV)
Having said this, he called loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, bound head and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth. “Untie him, “Jesus told them, “and let him go free.” ~ John 11:43-44 (NAB)
This story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead is part of the reading for our service this coming Sunday. It is a favorite of mine, first, because it is shocking. Can you really imagine what those standing around thought, not to mention Lazarus’ family? Raising of the dead had happened before by some of the prophets whose stories are in the Old Testament, but this man, Jesus, was a man that they knew – probably some of them since he was born. People in their circle did not bring people back to life. It changed their perspective and direction.
The second reason is that this fragment of scripture did the same for me. The first of the verses written above is the one we will hear on Sunday. The second one under it was one I read over 30 years ago, and the part that grabbed me was, “’Untie him,’ Jesus told them, ‘and let him go free.’” This translation is from the New American Bible (NAB). The revised version of the NABRE reads, “Untie him and let him go.” The word “Free” made a difference to me. When I read these words, it seemed as if Jesus was saying to me, “You, Donna, unbind them and let them go free.”
I took those words seriously as a command to me – marching Orders. I had been contemplating a direction for my life and becoming a counsellor appealed to me. Wouldn’t that help me do this? Unbind them? So, I began and enrolled in college. I loved my psychology and counselling classes and had finished those when I heard a different call. I enrolled in a program at St. Thomas Seminary and received a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry with concentration in Spiritual Direction. The classes I took in counselling and psychology helps. Who would have thought? Not me! But walking with others on their spiritual journey can be one way of unbinding – helping a person notice where God is in their life and finding blocks that get in the way of this.
Why am I writing about this today, and what, if anything, does it have to do with a Friday Meditation. Just this, if Jesus’ command was to remove the grave clothes so Lazarus could go free, isn’t it possible that this might still be a command for us? Thinking……
I have gone through my own unbinding process. It takes a lifetime, I’m beginning to think, and it has required inner healing, much prayer, community, Eucharist, and small groups of people with whom to pray and share, as well as a spiritual director of my own. From time to time, it has required professional counselling. A lot of removal of grave clothes happened. There are some scars still in evidence, and they will probably remain. Scars are reminders of how much healing there has been.
I’m sure that you can recall your own stories when you think about it. Maybe you still have a few places that tie you down. But all is not lost. Jesus still has his ways of unwrapping us. Then our healing – our spiritual freedom becomes a gift that we can offer to others. There are many ways to serve in each little thing we do to help others. Maybe you work with the food distribution. Perhaps you go on trip to Juarez to help those who live at the dump. Maybe you serve at the Cold Weather Shelter, or the clothing bank, or Meals on Wheels. Maybe you visit the sick or sit with the elderly. Maybe you give rides to those who have no way of getting to where they need or would like to be. Maybe you just listen to others. Listen to that. Just listen??? Having someone listen to you is a wonderful, healing thing. Whatever you do or how small you think it is, it could be a very big deal to another. In so doing, and as you travel your own journey, smelly rags begin to come off. Then you and the person you touch may begin to walk again in the freedom of the love of Jesus.
SERVE OTHERS – #3, Trinity Way of Life
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen