We are provided with an unusual opportunity in the lectionary of the Daily Office today: a choice of Gospel readings. In deciding which to choose, I read both of them. The first is part one of the raising of Lazarus, where Martha meets Jesus on the road having left her sister, Mary, at home. Martha professes belief in the resurrection and Jesus' saving power, and Jesus says (which is the opening verses of our Funeral liturgy) I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
The other choice is one chapter later in John, where Jesus is visiting Martha, Mary and Lazarus (who he has previously raised from the dead) and Mary anoints Jesus' feet with very expensive perfume, wiping those feet with her unbound hair. Interestingly, this scene is mentioned in the earlier chapter, just before Jesus raises Lazarus. The Gospel writer is tying these two stories together. (It is kind of unfair to have to choose between the two.)
Both of these accounts revolve around Jesus' love for these three people (Martha, Mary and Lazarus), and their love for him. If we were to think of these encounters between Jesus and this family of two sisters and a brother in a metaphorical sense, what would we discern? Are these accounts about God's love and care for us, and our own love and response and worship of God? Is the new life we live as intentional members of a Christian community rooted in this gift of love that gives rise to new life?
As we enter into Holy Week in two days, these are some of the thoughts that can make that journey a richer experience.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Day-lilies from my terrace.