How We View Grief

As we enter the fifth week of Lent, the theme of the Paschal Mystery makes its presence felt more strongly.  Tonight we come face to face with the idea of resurrection in everyday life happening to ordinary people. 

If we consider that without death there is no possibility of resurrection, then how we view death has the potential to transform our experience from dread and horror to the mystery of eternity that keeps us in a state of awe and wonder, despite the trauma of loss and the reality of grief.

A Reading from the Gospel of John

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’

On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me, but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’ Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

The resurrection of Lazarus speaks to the redemptive nature of death. It’s hard to imagine a life without its tomb moments, those times when we are flattened with sickness of body and listlessness of spirit.  Lazarus was sick, and Jesus recognised that this was his tomb time, he needed to go deep within, stay still and allow himself to undergo his own death before rising.  In knowing this, Jesus too was compelled to stay still and wait before coming to his dear friend’s aid.

Jesus predicted that Lazarus would rise because he intuitively knew that he himself would be in the tomb and that he too would rise.  And he also knew that if Lazarus was to rise, he needed to die first. But there was an important difference between the two deaths.  Lazarus, when touched by Jesus, rose back into this life, whereas Jesus knew that when it would be his time to die, he would rise to eternity – he would be the resurrection and the life – the life for us who are living. So, while Lazarus went free into this life, Jesus was free of life and was born to everlasting life, for us. 

With that, we invite you to take a moment to look into yourselves and contemplate the following:

Reflective Questions to Ponder

  • What is your experience of tomb times? 
  • What is your experience of coming out of the tomb?
  • Do you have an inkling of what everlasting life would look like? Can you describe this?

Final Words

It is such a gift when we recognise and allow our own personal tomb time.  Without it, we cannot be born into a new way of being, we cannot transform and grow from the grief that besets us. If we are prepared to enter into our own internal grief journey, stay still within that and really mourn the sorrow and rage that cuts so deep, then we can resurrect into a new kind of life, a new vision, a new way of seeing and a new way of being. Death is not the end of the road, it is a new turn in the road, or doorway into eternal life.