THE SERVANT GENERAL
A PERSPECTIVE ON COVID-19
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS
Today’s gospel: John 11:1-45
“Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany” (v.1a).
“Lazarus has died.” (v.14a). Today ill, tomorrow
dead. This is happening to many due to COVID-19. This is distressing
to relatives, friends and the community. “Jesus saw
(Mary) weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping”
(v.33a). But our sorrow, which may lead us to ask “why,”
should lead us to deeper reflection and understanding of the
ways of God.
can this episode of Lazarus teach us, in relation to COVID-19?
God does know our pain, and God does want to heal. “When
Jesus saw (Mary) weeping and the Jews who had come with her
weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled” (v.33).
Jesus shares our pain. “And Jesus wept.” (v.35).
Jesus is distressed with our loss. But what distresses Jesus
most is the presence of death, darkness and evil in the world.
The literal translation in Greek of “became perturbed”
is “he snorted in spirit,” indicating his anger
at the presence of death and evil. In looking at COVID-19,
we need to see that this chastisement from God has been occasioned
by the darkness and evil that have beset the world.
when Jesus “heard that he was ill, he remained for two
days in the place where he was.” (v.6). He could have
gone immediately to Lazarus and healed him, but he did not.
This is what both Martha and Mary told him. “Lord, if
you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
(v.21,32b). Why does God not stop COVID-19? Why does God not
heal those who are infected so they do not die? With Lazarus,
there was a lesson to be learned. As for today, the world
needs to be turned topsy-turvy in order to shake it from its
spiritual stupor, and make people realize how far they have
strayed away from God.
Jesus says, “This illness is not to end in death, but
is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified
through it.” (v.4). Now COVID-19 does result in death.
How can we understand what Jesus said? Jesus is not referring
to physical death but to spiritual death. Yes, we will die
physically, at times due to illness. But we do not need to
die spiritually. If our illness and the challenges we face
in life bring us to repentance and we turn back to God, then
we will not die but live.
the way we are to live, even if we die, is to have faith in
Jesus. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live” (v.25).
With COVID-19 comes physical death; with Jesus comes eternal
life. This is what the world needs to learn. Then physical
death need not be such a terrible or unwanted experience,
as it would only be the gateway to true life. This is now
the challenge for the world. Jesus states a truth and then
asks us a question: “everyone who lives and believes
in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v.26).
The world should answer like Martha. “Yes, Lord. I have
come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.” (v.27).
Jesus told them to take away the stone that covered the tomb
of Lazarus. Martha said, “Lord, by now there will be
a stench” (v.39b). In the tomb was the darkness and
stench of death and sin. So much of the world today is in
darkness and sin. It is like we are all living in one big
tomb, with zombies walking around. What separated the tomb
from Jesus, what separated death from life, was the stone.
The stone reflects the hardness of people’s hearts today.
Their hearts have been hardened by sin. People’s lives
today are driven by deadly isms.
can be an acronym for the following:
Secularism – this is indifference to or rejection
of religion. Religious beliefs and practices are more and
more being excluded by a secularized society. Religious
freedom is being trampled upon.
– this is gender identity or gender expression that
differs from sex at birth. This is the ultimate manifestation
of the Sexual Revolution and the perversity of LGBT. It
is depravity and is contrary to God’s design.
Opportunism – this is taking advantage of
circumstances, with little or no regard for principles or
negative consequences on others. This is self-interest at
its worst. It is predatory. This brings about great injustices,
and is contrary to love of neighbor.
Nihilism – this is the rejection of all religious
and moral principles. It is looking at life as having no
objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value. It dismisses
morality. It is contrary to faith.
– this is about looking to self-interest as the motivation
and goal of one’s own action. This is selfism. It
is contrary to Christian virtues of selflessness, self-denial
and dying to self.
Now Jesus says, “Take away the stone.” (v.39a).
The world needs to rid itself of S.T.O.N.E., and start to
build on the Rock that is Christ. We are to repent of these
isms and put our faith in Jesus. Then the world can be moved
from the darkness into the glory of God. “Did I not
tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
Jesus cried out, “‘Lazarus, come out!’ The
dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and
his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie
him and let him go.’” (v.43-44). Jesus brings
us out of darkness, death and the stench of sin, and sets
us free. In this life, if we put our faith in Jesus, he sets
us free of the deadly isms. But more importantly, Jesus sets
us free from death and brings us to eternal life. For those
who believe, death due to COVID-19 is not the tragic end but
the glorious beginning.
Some of the Jews had said, “Could not the one who opened
the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this
man would not have died?” (v.37). God certainly can
do something about COVID-19 so that people will stop dying.
He can stop this pandemic in an instant. But God first wants
to open the eyes of the blind. We need to see the futility
of our investing ourselves in the pleasures of the world,
and to see the preciousness of our faith in all its aspects,
including our Eucharistic celebrations. The lockdowns are
meant to impress upon us what God has been telling us all
let us continue to pray, and pray fervently. Trust in Jesus.
Be like Martha who said, “even now I know that whatever
you ask of God, God will give you.” (v.22). Let as ask
our Lord Jesus to intercede for us before the Father. Let
us pray in the mighty name of Jesus our Lord. We pray for
this pandemic to end. But more so, we pray for people to repent
of their sins and turn back to God.
let us in faith hear Jesus say to us and to the world, “Your
brother will rise.” (v.23).