The ARM of St. Michael
John 11: 39-44
39 Jesus said; Take away the stone. Martha,the sister of the dead man, said to him; Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days. 40 Jesus said to her; Did I not tell you, that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus, lifting up his eyes, said; Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me; but because of the people who stand about, have I said it: that they may believe that you have sent me. 43 When he had said these things, he cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come out.44 The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with winding-bands; and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them; Loose him, and let him go.
The Easter mystery is prefigured in the Gospels at several moments during Lent. The miracle of Lazarus previews the salvation of sinners, the image of before during and after of a soul reborn clean.
The entombed Lazarus is a symbol of all who die. Bible Exegete Scott Hahn shares that the four days in the tomb signify four stages of spiritual death. They are recalled here, not with focus on Lazarus so much, who was a righteous man and a friend of the Lord, but for the lust addict:
The first stage of spiritual death is original sin, all inclination to deviations from Divine order.
The second is violation of the natural law; to fail nature's universal purpose for sexuality, the begetting of offspring; no creature enters life without the complicity of man and woman parents who give birth.
The third is violation of the written law of Moses, laid out extensively in Leviticus 18, the numerous known grave perversions and crimes against human sexual faculty itself.
The despising of the gospel of grace is the fourth stage; to believe that wounded or distorted sexuality, the greatest of all powers given to humans, cannot be restored even by God Who has created everything.
Jesus' miraculous act is framed by two directives. The Son of God first commands others to remove a large stone enclosing a sepulchre. God could have done this work Himself.Enter the world of support groups, where hearing the personal testimony from awakening souls helps slowly roll away the stone of denial for those still 'dead in sin'. This preparation has to occur otherwise the sick person will not hear the command of the Lord to come out of the grave.Outside of organized recovery meetings, this can occur person to person. On the power of the witness of just one recovered person, the stone can be laid aside!
A priest quote: spiritual life is "20% action 80% prayer". The prayers of 'others' - our prayers - are the significant part of the heavy lifting that rolls away the stone of denial for others. This might be why prayer has been called the greatest charity. Prayer accomplishes everything and the one who persists in it sincerely, cannot be ignored by the Lord. But more, the Lord listens keenly to the unselfish prayers of third parties.
The finality of death overwhelms Martha. But our Savior rebuffs her with the only thing needed: faith.
The command comes. Is it heard inwardly and maybe even from our own tongue, as when bolting up in bed in the middle of the 10,000th lust dream speaking finally the "what is wrong with me?" Also significant is the calling of our name. Satan whispers "the dead one is no one". "The afflicted one is not a person anymore but a disfigured beast." Satan uses the grotesqueness and agedness of affliction to argue his empty proposal for faithlessness.
Lies both of the enemy!God speaks to our unique standing in His creation. We are not nameless losers on some fictitious cosmic "game field". The Deceiver does everything possible to discourage the realization of the sinner that he is (still, and has always been) a person, essential to the fabric of the universe, irreplaceable in the eyes of God, a son or daughter of the Royal Father of lights.
God speaks loudly, which is in contrast to other biblical moments, such as Elijah's beholding the whispering breeze. When the call arrives to be healed from addicting illness, the deadly sin, it is unmistakable.It can be a matter of life and death in addiction. The Lord does not work subtly at such a moment. For this writer, it was when a fellow lust addict called me out as a drunk, painful and plain. I had stunk for "four days" equivalent to 24 years.
The raised comes forth, yet mercifully protected from blinding light, head still wound with cloth.The second command enlists others to assist in the removal of burial rags.Servants of the Church do this work. Priests wait for us in the confessional to hear our speaking the truth of wound and disorder in our lives. Priests wait for us in the communion line to administer the sacrament of purity, Jesus who will replace lies with Himself, the Truth.
Also waiting are retreat leaders, deliverance prayer ministers, intercessory groups: an array of fellowships, every kind of contact with the Body of Christ, which is a body of beauty and tender love. The Church unwinds the mummy-gauze of enslavement, God 'takes on flesh' in a community of friends and helpers. God never does all the work Himself, but allots plenty to his children, to make real and tangible His miracles on earth. It is a redemptive chance for us to do something like so many children who beg their father for a job at the workbench. The grave windings fall away as lies, deceptions and false concepts that the addict has too long agreed with.
Taking away the tomb stone and removing fetid grave clothes are two of many healing labors. Healing with the help of others involves some heavy and delicate lifting. Here are more marvels of opportunity for us to grow into the likeness of God, by grace. We know always that God is strong and tender at the same time, Whom we now follow. All of the work of recovery fellowship is done with charity and clarity.
Full recovery from addiction undoes the four stages of spiritual death, in reverse order. The rejection of the Christ by his own people is shocking, but it is the same situation for anyone who refuses faith in the 'One like no other', who came and accomplished the salvation of us all.The Gospel of grace in Christ Jesus, faith in His saving gift, releases us from demonic bondage, from the clutches of the enemy, from the lies of the addiction prison and the distorted perceptions of self and God. The Creator is also a Restorer.
As Christ is received in us by deepening immersion in the sacramental life and in the life of His Church, we draw nearer to a life of virtue, the living out of purity and chastity, total custody of sexual faculty, by grace.
The healthy vocation in marriage leads to the right living out of its covenant, called second only to the work of God Himself. The issuance of children in holy marriage is the most prominent manifestation of true health in mind, body and soul.
The last stage, original sin, is reversed by the gift of living in the Divine Will; union with God.
It is the greatest act of faith to, in the end, accept the life of affliction that was, but has been brought to restoration, for the glory of God. God can turn everything that has ever happened to us into meaning and purpose and glory.
The miracle of christianity is not what we ever do, so much, but what God does with our honest admittance of woundedness and total surrender to His transforming care. He works the miracle with the help of friends if we can bring with courage and faith our brokenness to Him and allow Jesus to make it holy through His immaculate offering of horrific suffering and Infinite merit. "Let it be done to me", is all we are really asked.
Lazarus is the Latinized Hebrew of the name, Eleazar meaning God has helped. Our goal is to let God help us. What help do we require? Are we brave enough to know?
Lazarus friend of God, pray for us. Savior Jesus, call us forth out of darkness into Your Saving Light. Amen.