Take Away the Stone: Jesus has a message in these pandemic times
Jesus puts a condition to give life to Lazarus who had been dead and entombed since four days – Take Away the Stone. And though the condition looks very simple on the face, how difficult it is becomes evident from the response of Martha.
By Joe Palathunkal
On the fifth Sunday of Lent 29 March 2020 all the three readings from the Bible in a Roman Catholic Holy Mass were about death and life. In the first Reading (Ezekiel 37: 12 – 14) we hear about how the Lord God promises to open the graves of Israel and to bring them out of those graves with life. Graves are symbols of death and bringing people out of them signifies life. And God tells the people that the sign of life is the spirit of God within them: “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.” In these days when the Angel of Death COVID – 19, struck us all of us have become dispirited and lifeless but if we pray for God’s spirit, we will have life.
In the Second Reading (Romans 8: 8 – 11) Saint Paul addresses us as brothers and sisters and affirms that “If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life” to you. Again life is affirmed against death.
But in the third Reading or Gospel (John 11: 1 – 45) Jesus puts a condition to give life to Lazarus who had been dead and entombed since four days – Take Away the Stone. And though the condition looks very simple on the face, how difficult it is becomes evident from the response of Martha, sister of Lazarus: “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
Martha represents all the people who do not want to take away the stone that they have kept against life with their own valid reasons and arguments. Their arguments will sound very appropriate. Don’t we agree with Martha that a man entombed for four days will have stench? But Jesus does not accept such reasoning in favor of death because he had come to give us abundance of life. All of us carry such a stone, reasoning against life.
When the COVID – 19 struck, many people had such a stone with them and refused to take it away with their own reasoning to save market or business or anything like that. But they never thought of saving the life of fellow human beings because they saw them as mere replaceable items to make profit, as indicated by Pope Francis in 27 March Urbi et Orbi message: “In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste.”
If the information about this Corona pandemic had come to light right in the beginning, precautions would have been taken and such devastation could have been averted. Someone kept a stone against the door of Truth and the result is death as we see today. This is what Jesus wants to tell us through the Lazarus-event that never keep a stone against the door of life, and if you do you will pay a heavy price like the Pharaoh of Egypt – the angel of death can strike even the pharaohs who feel safe in their fortified palaces. See how the billionaires of USA have gone into the high security underground bunkers to escape COVID – 19. And the Holy Father continued: “We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick.”
But COVID – 19 can reach those in bunkers too. Only way is to heed to Jesus’ command – Take Away the Stone. Otherwise, you will have death and devastation as we experience today.
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