Mary said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The thing that strikes me about Mary in today’s gospel (John 11:32-44) is that she wants something different from the life she has. She wants something new. And who among us today doesn’t know what that’s like? Haven’t there been times when you wanted something different from the life you had? Haven’t you sometimes wanted to be something new?
I think that desire for something new is revealed whenever we say, “If only _____” and then fill in the blank with whatever it is that would give us something different. I think we’re looking for something new whenever we try to reinvent ourselves or look for a better version of ourselves. Sometimes grief and sorrow, exhaustion, confusion, or being overwhelmed cause us to wish or pray for something new. Other times loneliness, boredom, or the same old same old leave us looking for something new. Maybe guilt, regret, disappointment, or feeling stuck is why you want something new. It might also be, however, a sense of calling, a dream, or a passion that pushes you to seek something new.
I wonder what in you or your life today is wanting or needing to be made new. How would you complete this sentence: “Lord, if you had been here, _____?” What’s the new, the something different, you’re looking for today?
Making All Things New
Whatever your answer might be you’ve come to the right place. This is your day. All Saints’ Sunday is a day of making new. Isn’t that what we hear in God’s revelation to John? Listen to what John says (Revelation 21.01-06):
- “I saw a new heaven and a new earth;”
- “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem;” and
- “The one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”
“See, I am making all things new.” That’s the promise of this day and today’s gospel is a story about fulfilling that promise. Listen to what Jesus says:
- “Take away the stone;”
- “Lazarus, come out;” and
- “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Each of those statements is about making new. And it’s not just Lazarus being made new. It’s also Mary and Martha being made new.
We often talk about the saints as if they are somehow morally or spiritually superior to us, as if they had it all together and did everything right. But what if that’s a misunderstanding of this day and the saints? What if saints are ones who entrust themselves to being made new? What if saints are ones who participate in God’s making all things new? What if saints are ones who let themselves be made new and who make new in the lives of others?
That’s what I’ve seen and experienced with the saints in my life. I remember with love and gratitude Anthony of Egypt, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, my son Brandon, my friend John, my mentor Fr. Kelly. I saw them working out newness in each of their lives and I experienced and was challenged by them bringing newness to my life. I still am.
The saints still speak to and show up in our lives. That’s why we call out their names and display their pictures on this day. It’s a way they are present to us and we to them. Together, we and they are being made new.
When have you seen newness happening in the life of another? When has another brought about newness in your life? What I’m really asking is this: Who are the saints in your life?
Being made new, however, isn’t something that just happens to us. It’s something we actively participate in, for ourselves and each other. It’s an ongoing process, a continual unfolding and opening of our lives. Look at how beautifully that’s revealed in today’s gospel.
First, Jesus asked Mary, “Where have you laid him?” He’s asking her to name and point to the parts of herself and her life that need making new. How would you answer Jesus’ question? Where have you laid the Lazarus of your life?
We can’t just turn away from, ignore, repress, or walk away from those parts of ourselves and our lives that need making new. This isn’t about replacing the old, but making the old new. And that starts with naming what needs to be made new in our lives today.
Second, Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” What are the stones that get in your way and keep you from making a change? In what ways has your life become hardened and closed? What keeps you from stepping into a new way of being, seeing, thinking, or living? What do you need to do to “take away the stone” and who could help you with that?
Third, “Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” What’s the first step you need to take in order to come out, to be made new? And what’s the next and the one after that? Remember, being made new is a process. Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything he hasn’t already done. He also took a first step out of the tomb, “so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Finally, Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go.” As long as we are unwilling to unbind and let go nothing can be made new. What parts of your life do you need to unbind? What do you need to let go of?
Claim the Promise
Don’t you want to walk in newness of life? I do.
I don’t want to leave here today the same person I was when I came in and I don’t want you to either. I want us to each claim the promise of this day. I want us to do the hard work of being made new and helping others be made new.
I want us to be the saints God already know us to be. I want us to each discover the newness that awaits us and step into a greater fullness of life. I want us to follow in the footsteps of Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and all the saints.
This is All Saints’ Sunday and you know what? All things are being made new.