|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come Out; Unbind Him and Let Him Go
In John’s Gospel, all of Jesus’ miracles are called signs and each sign brings about faith. In the Synoptic Gospels, we have to have faith to receive the miracle. In John’s Gospel, we begin without faith; then sign brings about faith. Today’s miracle is the seventh of the seven signs. From here the Gospel points to Christ himself. Christ is the ultimate sign, who becomes the Sacrament of God. John’s Gospel is the most sophisticated of all the Gospels, and every detail is written for a reason. There are three things that happen in today’s sign that are very significant for us as disciples. First, it is the call. Jesus does not do anything other than invite us. He calls us out of our darkness. He says to Lazarus, “Come out!” But before he calls, he first removes the stone. He says, “Remove the stone; take away the stone.” In other words, in our lives, God will remove the obstacles in our lives, and then he will call to us and invite us, “Brendan, come out—come follow me. Listen to me.”
Bear in mind, Lazarus has been dead in the tomb for four days, and one could understand that darkness as being comfortable for him. Often times, in our lives, we have sunk into darkness, and we do not want to leave it because we have grown comfortable with the darkness. We have grown familiar with the pain of our lives, and we like it – not because we like it in and of itself – but we like it because it is familiar. We remain unhappy but in a familiar place. The Lord says to us, “Come out!”
This leads to the second step of the sign or miracle: Lazarus has to respond. Even in death, Jesus gives Lazarus the choice of whether to be healed or to remain in darkness. That is what he will do for us. Even in the midst of it, we can still languish in our darkness; we can still choose to ignore the healing power of his voice that says, “Come out of your darkness, Brendan! Come out!” We can still choose to remain in there, but Lazarus does not; Lazarus comes out. We too are called to come out, to listen to the voice of God, and to step into the beautiful light of Christ.
The third and the most important part of almost all of his signs: they are always done in community. He says it to the community, “untie him and let him go.” In other words, the miracle is not complete until the community participates and unties him. When we go through our transformation of being called out and responding to God’s call to come follow him, we do so in a particular community, and it is that community that unties us or unbinds us and let’s us go, validating the miracle, validating our discipleship.
Today, we listen to that call and acknowledge the darkness from which he is calling us. Can we respond by walking out into the light and allowing others to unbind us and set us free?