domenica 2 aprile 2017

«Ego sum resurrectio et vita»

On this Sunday, the third scrutiny of catechumens is celebrated, accompanied by the catechesis on Baptism from the gospel of John. The passage read today for this catechesis is the raising of Lazarus. In the gospel of John, Jesus performs seven miracles, called “signs.” This one is the last before the resurrection of Jesus himself. We could consider the raising of Lazarus as the climax of the previous signs. Jesus presents himself as “the resurrection and the life” (Ego sum resurrectio et vita). He is the one who conquers death and gives life: “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

People already believe in Jesus. The two sisters, Martha and Mary, when they meet Jesus, say: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Evidently, they know that Jesus is able to heal people; so, they are convinced that, if Jesus had been with them, he would have prevented Lazarus from dying. The Jews, on their part, say: “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” This means that either they have been present at the healing of the man born blind or the news of that miracle has spread everywhere. All of them believe in Jesus as a healer, but no one considers the possibility that he can raise Lazarus from the dead.

Martha knows that whatever Jesus asks of God, God will give him; but, when Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise, she replies: “I know he will rise, in the resurrection of the last day.” After Jesus invites her to believe in him as the one who gives life, she declares her faith: “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world”—a perfect profession of faith, similar to Peter’s. And yet, when Jesus orders to take away the stone from the tomb, she complains that it is already four days since Lazarus’ death. It is inconceivable that a man can raise the dead; so even those who believe in Jesus exclude this possibility. Only God can give and take life. However great, Jesus is still a man. But they do not take into consideration the possibility that Jesus might be God and, as such, raise the dead. Jesus, by raising Lazarus, manifests his deepest identity.

It is interesting to notice that Jesus reveals his divinity precisely at the moment when he more openly shows his humanity. In no other page of the gospel he discloses his human feelings like here. The gospel points out that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” The two sisters inform Jesus of their brother’s illness with these words: “Master, the one you love is ill.” Jesus terms Lazarus “our friend.” When Jesus sees Mary and the Jews weeping, he becomes “perturbed and deeply troubled,” and eventually he himself bursts into tears. The Jews recognize the affection of Jesus for his friend: “See how he loved him.” Jesus is a true man: he loves like us; he is moved and weeps like each of us. It is exactly when we see him more human, that he shows us his divinity.

This remark is important, because Jesus’ humanity, which could seem to conceal his divinity, in reality manifests it: Jesus reveals his divinity through his humanity; and we can discover his divinity only through his humanity. For us there is no other way to reach God but through the humanity of Jesus Christ: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What we are saying about the humanity of Jesus goes also for the Church and the sacraments. The Church is an extension of the humanity of Jesus; the sacraments are a continuation of his signs. For example, Baptism is a kind of resurrection: when we are baptized, we are raised from sin’s death and start a new life. That is why Baptism can be considered as the sacrament of regeneration and rebirth. Through it we are born to a new life, a life that will never end: “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”