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Death as the parable of Life - Lent 2017


Jesus often taught in parables. The simplicity of a parable can often be deceptive. The familiar metaphor that it uses, can often lead us to presume we have grasped its meaning. Quite the contrary, since Jesus himself tells us that the reason he talks in parables is “that they look without seeing, and listen without hearing or understanding.”  (Matthew 13:13) We never fully understand a parable, we only progressively discover its meaning. Jesus came that we might have life and life in all its fullness.It would seem strange therefore that he invariably talks about “death” when he wants to teach us about Life. The daughter of Jairus was dead and they laughed at Jesus when he said she was not dead but asleep. (Luke 8:53) Jesus said Lazarus was resting and that he was going to wake him. They thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, till he put it plainly Lazarus is dead. (John 11;11-13) Jesus in raising them both to life uses death to explain the parable of life.

 

When Jesus tells the bystanders that Jairus’ daughter is merely asleep he is more than just assuaging their grief. Jesus does not offer the hope of the Resurrection as a consolation to Martha. “I AM the RESSURECTION and the life.” This is a statement made days before his actual death. indicating that in him the Resurrection is an ever present Reality. He had healed the paralytic and in so doing showed the efficacy of his word. At the Last Supper, he will give his broken body for us even before he has actually died. The death and resurrection that follow are merely an enactment in TIME of a Reality that transcends it. He is evidently speaking of another kind of death. that we must experience even as we live.

 

Life is all about being watchful, and staying awake. This is not an invitation to a state of sleeplessness. The inability to sleep does not translate into watchfulness. It is perhaps a time when we are most distracted. Sleeplessness is the illusion of being awake. In this state, we are never our true self, never fully functional. We might as well be dead. Like Jairus’ daughter, we are called to wake up from our sleep. Lazarus is called forth from the tomb. “Loose him; let him go.” We begin to experience the Resurrection when we wake up, setting aside our dreams and images of Jesus beholding him beyond thought and word and experiencing him as the Reality within us. We know we have risen to a new life when like Lazarus we come forth ‘unbound’. We are bound by our past when we memorialize it, by bringing it into the present and giving it a reality it does not possess. Obsession with our past and those of others is the biggest obstacle to forgiveness. “Love keeps no account of wrong-doing” Each time we know we have been forgiven much we are able to love much more in return. To be unbound means to be freed from our compulsive patterns of living. Lazarus raised to life, finds that little has changed in the four days since he had died. He however notices that he himself has changed a great deal. The disappointment at Jesus’ delay in coming, is gone. The anger he nursed against those plotting to put to death his dearest friend, is a thing of a past. He is more accepting and forgiving. The pain of dispossession that death brings is no more. On the contrary, he begins to love with a sense of non-attachment. With his new-found sense of vision he learns that though he would not live forever, the sting of death is not something to be feared. because it is our gateway to Life in all its fullness.

 

Christopher Mendonca



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