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This is what happens when someone dies in the first century. They wrap the body in burial cloth from head to toe. Then they take the body and lay it on a shelf in a tomb and leave it there. One year later, they return to collect the bones and put them in a bone box, freeing the shelf for another body.
One day Jesus approached one of these tombs and had the rock rolled away. From outside the opening, He called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus came out of the tomb. After that, they untied him, releasing him from the burial cloths. This is the part of the story that truly amazes me. If I were laying on a shelf wrapped in burial cloths and someone called to me, “Peter, come out,” I would have replied, “You have to be joking. I cannot see; I cannot use my hands; I cannot walk. Someone will have to come in and help me.” Lazarus did not do that. So this is my question. Why did Lazarus not wait until someone came in to assist him? Why did he roll off the shelf, do a face-plant, then the inchworm move or roll out of the tomb before they untied him? Why did he listen to Jesus’ voice? The Gospel of the Good Shephard tells us why. The sheep hear and recognize the shepherd’s voice.
A guy fell into a hole and he couldn’t climb out. He heard someone walk by and shouted for help. “Send me down a rope.” The guy that walked by answered “I am a physician; I don’t have a rope. However, I see you are anxious and I may be able to help. I will give you want I have.” So he threw him down a prescription. Another guy walked by, and the man in the hole shouted for help. The guy above looked down the hole and replied, “I don’t have a rope; I am a banker.” So he threw him down a business card and said, “I can give you free checking at my bank if you ever make it out.” Finally, a friend walked by. The man in the hole said, “Am I glad to see you; send down a rope so I can get out.” His friend said, “I don’t have a rope.” Then he jumped into the hole with his friend. The guy in the hole said, “What did you do that for? Now we are both stuck down here.” The friend said confidently, “I’ve been down here before. I know the way out. Just follow me.” That is what Lazarus did. He listened to his Friend and followed Him.
After my mother died, my father bought four lots at the cemetery. One was for me. After the funeral, I visited the cemetery to see my mother’s new gravestone. As I said a prayer, I realized that I was standing on my own grave. Have you ever stood on your own grave? Let me share with you what happens when you stand on your grave. You start thinking, and this is what I thought. I pictured the day of my own burial. On that day, there will be some friends, parishioners, and my community. They say prayers, speak a few kind words about me, shed a tear, and put a flower on my casket. These are all nice gestures but none of them can save me from the grave. There is only one person in my life who can say, “Don’t worry, I was here before, and I know how to get out.” There is only one person in my life who can say, “I am the resurrection and the life.” One person can say, “I will come back to you and take you to Myself so that where I am, you also may be.”
There are a lot of voices in the world, lots of philosophies and ways of life, not to mention a vast array of opinions. Yet, only one voice matters when we die. Of all the voices in the world, we recognize the one voice because we hear it each week at Mass. We hear it when we read the Scriptures. We spent our lives following that voice. Lazarus walked out of the tomb because he recognized the voice. He recognized it because that was the voice he followed in life.Back to All Homilies