STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Fourteenth Station — Jesus Is Laid In The Tomb, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

From The Journey to Peace

Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’s body in a tomb hewn out of the rock, in which no one had yet been buried. That was the Day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was about to  begin.  The women who  had come with him from Galilee followed along behind.  They saw the tomb and how his body was buried.  Then they went home to prepare spices and perfumes.  They observed the Sabbath as a day of rest, in accordance with the law. (Luke 23:53-56)

The Shadow of the Cross Falls Upon Our Joys and Sorrows

The Gospel of Saint John (11:1-44) focuses on the theme of life and death.  Jesus learns that his beloved friend, Lazarus, is seriously ill, but he waits two days before setting out for Bethany, where Lazarus lived.  When he begins this journey, Jesus knows that Lazarus is dead.  The trip apparently takes three days, for Jesus is informed upon his arrival in Bethany that Lazarus has been dead for four days.  Nevertheless, he raises Lazarus from the dead and restores him to life.  That is the story in a nutshell.  But it lacks some very important details – especially Jesus’s conversation with Martha, Lazarus’s sister.

Like Martha and the bystanders, we may also wonder why Jesus delayed in going to Bethany until after he knew that Lazarus had already died.  Jesus has the reputation of being a powerful healer of various kinds of illnesses.  However, the basic thrust of this chapter in Saint John’s Gospel is its message that Jesus is both the resurrection and the life – for all who, like Martha, believe in him.  Faith enables a person who has died to live with God forever.  One who has faith will never truly die – that is, he or she will never be separated from God.  That is a powerful, consoling message.

But there is a deeper significance to this narrative.  When Jesus gives new life to his friend Lazarus, he risks losing his own life.  Bethany is only two miles from Jerusalem, where Jesus’s enemies live.  As a matter of fact, at the very end of this narrative about the raising of Lazarus, the chief priests and the Pharisees met to decide what to do about Jesus.  Their conclusion was that he must die.

So the shadow of the cross falls across the joy and jubilation of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus’s own crucifixion and death lie in the immediate future.  Risking his own life to give new life to Lazarus does not surprise us about Jesus.  That is why he came into the world – to give new life to the human family, through his own death and resurrection.

Loving God, I believe that Jesus is the resurrection
and the life.  Help me to be the instrument of your
healing love so that others may experience new life
and live in the circle of your mercy and love.
Amen.

The Spirit of God Calls Us Forth From Our Graves

The Spirit of God calls us forth from our graves.  In God’s Spirit, we can call each other from out of our self-made graves.  Let us first be aware of where our corpses lie.  Our self-made graves are everywhere.  We make graves in our high schools, our work and party places, and in all our gathering spots.  We make graves whenever and wherever we blast away at the people on the fringes, the oddballs and wounded birds.  There is a proverb that says that the most perfect weapon is the human tongue, because it can kill another without spilling a drop of blood.  How many graves have we filled through the practiced violence of our mocking put-downs?

We make graves on our streets, in back alleys, in parking lots and playgrounds — anyplace where we resort to physical conflict to resolve interpersonal differences.  We make graves whenever we decide that the best way to change a person’s mind is to bash in his head.  We make graves whenever we confuse muscle with machismo and might with right.  Physical violence in all its forms has always made a multitude of graves.

We make graves out of relationships through studied or deliberate indifference.  When we blind our eyes to each other, we disengage our hearts.  How many of us have bailed out on parent-family relationships, reducing our contact with them to the barest and coldest minimum?  How many of us have cut ourselves off from the poor and suffering, isolating ourselves from any sense of connection and responsibility?  How many of us have let prejudice kill any possibility of openness to an entire ethnic, national, or racial group?  How many of us refuse to see the person behind the appearance, the living, breathing human being beneath the stereotype — be it preppie, jock, greaser, druggie, tramp, or rah-rah?  We make graves out of relationships when we run and hide.

Like the Marines, God is looking for a few good people.  Like an arrow, God aims himself at our hearts.  Let us literally be peacemakers.  It is through our concrete and real peacemaking that we will call each other from out of our self-made graves.  In God’s Spirit, call each other from all your self-made graves.  Be strong, not with the strength of the brute of the cynic but with the strength of the spark of God.  Where there is isolation and interpersonal insulation, work to build community.  Where people are dismissed and cut out on the basis of appearance, stereotype, or prejudice, gather together on the basis of understanding, humor, and compassion.  Make your communities models of a peacemaking people.  That is more important than any project you can plan.  That is the agenda I would like you to set for yourselves.

God of life, send your Spirit to call me forth from
the darkness of the graves I have created for myself.
May the risen Lord help me spread peace,
build bridges as a reconciler, and honor the dignity
of all persons.
Amen.

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