JULY 29, 2004
 FEAST OF MARTHA, MARY AND LAZARUS
 HOMILY: JOHN 11:39-46

JESUS SAID: IF YOU BELIEVE YOU WILL SEE THE GLORY OF GOD! The miracle of giving life to a man dead for four days is the symbolic manifestation of Jesus’ identity as the Savior. The greatest source of human misery is death. When death is considered as the final removal of someone from earthly existence, it puts an end. to all the hopes and aspirations for happiness as it is known within the limits of time. Death is characterized by a finality that removes hope of all further natural existence as we humans know it.

Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, died and was buried in a rock tomb. Jesus called him forth, back to this life which we know here on earth. He performed this miracle as a sign of his mission as Savior who brings the gift of true life to those who believe in him as the one sent by the Father. In the Syriac text the word used to designate Jesus as Savior means literally “The Life-Giver”. As St. John makes evident in this same Gospel, the life that he gives is that which God himself enjoys, it is eternal life. Just before our

Lord called Lazarus forth from the tomb, he had said to his sister, Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, though he should die, will live, and every one who believes in me will not die forever.” With these words our Lord makes the highest of claims for our faith. Faith in Jesus is the door that opens up to eternal life with God the Father. Obviously, he means here a faith that is living and so carries out in practice the teaching that he sets forth as the way to walk in this world. It is surely by deliberate purpose that the Lord makes this point in speaking to his dear friend, Martha.

Our monastic fathers understood well the importance of Jesus’ relationship with Martha, Mary and Lazarus for our Cistercian way of life. St. Bernard in particular developed at length the meaning of this family friendship with the Savior for our Cistercian community. Martha, Mary and Lazarus are symbols of the three kinds of living that are to be found in every community of our Order. Martha is the type of those who serve in a more active way as officers or heads of departments. Mary is a type of those whose attention is given chiefly to prayer and contemplation, while Lazarus is a symbol of  those who concentrate more on the hard labor of penance. It is essential that we remember that these three are united in a single, loving family.

Rather than compete with one another, they cooperated and lived in harmony. While Mary chose the best part, the others make it possible for her to live in quiet and peace, giving herself in prayerful attentiveness to the Lord. Such is the view that Bernard formed of our monastic life together, one of fraternal cooperation and so creative of a home where the Savior could find the welcome that only love and faith can provide.

As we commemorate these holy sisters and their brother today, may we learn to imitate their unity of heart and of faith. May this Eucharist bestow on each of us here the grace to make of our community a place where the Jesus, the Life-Giver, is always welcomed with the faith and love that unites us to the Father in that life which knows no end.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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