“Terminal truth telling.” The therapist tossed that phrase out in casual conversation. She wondered at the compulsion to share deply personal stories publicly. Where was the thought about impact? Outcomes?Consequences? On this Fifth Sunday of Lent. the phrase still haunts and beguiles. So many voices have given narratives of personal realities; the stories and claims are overwhelming. Determining what is real and true is increasingly difficult. And yet, sincerity and authenticity are so necessary, so real. And so it is that the Gospel this week features Lazarus freed from the tomb in a narrative that whispers of rich relationship, clear connections and honest communication.
Relationship drew Jesus back to Judea, to Lazarus’ home. There are so many clues in the reading from John 11. There is honest conversation between Martha and Jesus, and there are the evangelist’s gentle observations about love being at home there. There is Martha’s understanding about the teachings of Jesus, and there is Jesus’ view of the situation as well. The words carry the complexity born of human communication: coming to grips with what is perceived, and becoming aware of what more is possible. So much is packed into succinct phrases; so much interpretation has dissected and analyzed the story. But at heart is the reality of the relationships, the connections, and the communicating. Lent is about each of those, and the story of Lazarus is a reminder that this is a caring, loving God wo accepts who and what we are as human beings and actively seeks the strength and sincerity of relationship.
The first and second readings are the anchors for this story of Lazarus. The first is from the prophet Ezekiel, and the words are a promise:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD
The real, the authentic, is resting underneath the miraculous in the passage. The key is coming to know the Lord, and rising from the graves is how that will happen. And the second reading is the promise from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It is about the Spirit of God living within. It is all about the connections. the reality, the communication between God and human beings. And so there is testimony in the Gospel that what really matters is believing and loving, being in relationship.
That said, the Gospel is something of a skeleton without the embellishment of intricate detail or the rich fabric of further dialogue. There is more than enough to convey the message, and little enough so the reader can enter the passage, the time. There is sincerity and authenticity in every word, and there is clarity and truth in belief. The story has an impact, and belief has a consequence, a clear, definable consequence. It is a story told with purpose, preserved with hope and shared on this Fifth Sunday of Lent with an invitation to believe.