And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him. – John 12:10-11
Sometimes the hardest thing for me to change is my own mind. My behaviors are hard to change at times, too, but it seems like if my mind is really made up about something, the behavioral changes follow more easily.
In today’s Gospel, the chief priests, are plotting to kill Lazarus because, well…because he was alive. He had been dead for four days when Jesus raised him from the dead. Lazarus’ very existence, then, was a testament to the miraculous power of Jesus, and therefore a threat to the high priests who just could not accept that Jesus was God.
As we walk this final journey into Holy Week, I find these readings about the plots to kill Jesus and the people that testify to his character very foreboding. I do a lot of volunteer work at our church. This means that sometimes I am in danger of being like the high priests and clinging so much to what I want to do (programs I want to run, ways I want to see things done, people I will and will not work with) that I lose sight of what God may be asking of me in each moment. Sometimes– just as Jesus did when he first heard Lazarus was sick–we need to let things die. Even the things that are very dear to us–as Lazarus was to Jesus.
Our old ways of doing things (because that’s how we’ve always done them and that’s how we like it), our favorite events and celebrations (even though nobody new has come to them in years), and even the people we love to work with (because they are fun and think just like us!) always need to be held loosely. This is the Paschal Mystery: to die and to rise anew. If we are not willing to hold things loosely enough that when the time is right, we let them die, then we have rejected a very large part of our faith!
This is a challenge and a struggle, yes, but the alternative as the Gospels seem to spell out again and again, should certainly give us pause. If we do not hold things loosely, we risk clinging to them so tightly that we, like the high priests, fail to recognize God when he’s right in front of us!
We can stand firm in our faith that God is always for us, yes, but we do not know how his plans for our best interests are meant to unfold. Therefore, we must hold loosely to all “things” in order to make room for him to stir our hearts, and give ourselves permission to change our minds when we’ve clung too close to something other than God himself.
The same is true for the people we surround ourselves with, too. If we are not careful, we can push to the margins all those who think differently than us and therefore we run the risk of clinging too tightly to our own way of thinking. As biblical scholar, Sister Dianne Bergant, recently stated, “Who are the outsiders in your life? Be careful, they might be more righteous than you.”
Today’s Gospel message seems clear: if we want to live our lives as a testament to Jesus, then we need to let things die when their “time has come.” This means we must continue to examine all “things” which we hold dear: not just old programs, old routines, and old habits, but also our old ways of thinking and those in our lives whom we are holding at arms length. Jesus is more than willing to breathe new life into the things we think and say and do, and when we make room for him to do this, we point more people towards him, not us, which is exactly who we want to promote! However, if we cling tightly to our old ways for the sake of our own status, our own glory or our own self-righteousness, then we are not only sure to be blind to God’s presence, but we also–perhaps even unknowingly–run the risk of plotting against him.
Reflect: What are some “things” in my life that I have been struggling to “keep alive”? What would happen if I loosened my grip on these things and made room for God to work within them? Am I afraid they might “die”? If so, why am I so afraid of letting them go? Have I considered that perhaps these things really are meant to “live”…and that only God can make that happen? Would I be willing to loosen my grip if I knew that were his plan?
Pray: Heavenly Father, you gave us all you had in your Son Jesus, even to the point of death on the Cross! Help me to give no less of the things in my life back to you. Help me to trust in the New Life you desire for me and for all your creation. Open my eyes to see your promise of New Life in the signs of spring all around me: the budding trees and flowers, the returning birds, the melting snow. Take me by the hand and walk with me, so that I can loosen my grip on my old habits and ways of thinking, and make room to follow you more closely. Amen.