This Gospel we hear today is chosen by the Church for many reasons. In John's Gospel the raising of Lazarus is the last of the “signs” that Christ carries out in his public ministry. So just as the disciples now only await the culmination of the Gospel, the greatest sign that itself fulfills everything the other events signify. So, then, Lazarus' death and resurrection are a foreshadowing of Christ's, and only from the Lord's future resurrection does it draw its power.
Throughout this church we have revived an old tradition of veiling statues and sacred art, except for the Stations of the Cross and our sanctuary crucifix. This is so fitting for today, when we remember that Lazarus, dead in sin, awaited new life from Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. As we enter into this deeper time of penance, we too await with eager expectation the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord which we begin to enter into next week for Palm Sunday.
Physical death, which awaits us all, is only “sleep,” Jesus reminds us, because to God, all are living. The death that is worse than physical death is human sinfulness, and we see this in today's Gospel. Remember that death had only come into the world because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and while it seems a punishment, death is also a sort of gift because it brings the suffering of this life to an end. In today's Gospel God weeps at the death that is caused by sin, because He is human, not physical death but the death of sin. The affections that Jesus shows are because of the horror of sin, and the pain he feels today foreshadows his suffering from the garden of Gethsemani all the way to Calvary.
And that horror of sin which we see in Lazarus' death, Christ destroys and gives new life in its place. He desires to do the same for you. Allow Jesus to free you from the tomb of your sins: come to the Penance Service this Tuesday night. With eighteen priests and your fellow parishioners beside you, allow the Lord to heal you from death, so that you can joyfully experience the Resurrection of our Lord in only two weeks. Today, to all of us, wrapped in our sins, Christ calls out: “Come out! Come to me and find your sins conquered and your life renewed!” Come out!