It always seems to me that many of the characters from the Gospels who say the least are often the ones from whom we can draw the most meaning. Mary says very little and once her Son begins his public ministry she says nothing at all. We hear little to nothing from most of the apostles, and St. Joseph, whom we call the guardian of the Church and of the Holy Family, doesn’t have a single word attributed to him by any of the Gospel writers.
THE DEAD MAN
One of these silent yet powerful figures that I love to hear about is Lazarus, the man Jesus so famously raised from the dead four days after his death. Think about the story that this Lazarus must have had. We know that Jesus called him a friend and even wept because of his death. We know that he followed Jesus from that point and that his sisters were Saints Mary and Martha, but apart from these details we know very little and we don’t hear a single word leave his lips.
Yet, as we read later, Lazarus was seen as dangerous.
“[The] large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there [at Bethany] and came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him” (John 12: 9-11).
What a witness Lazarus must have been! What a story! What an evangelical presence his life must have taken on that his very existence turned people to believe in the Christ. What it must have been like to have his life so tied to and associated with the truth of Jesus that to hate Jesus was to hate Lazarus as well.
LIVING A RAISED LIFE
In this way, Lazarus presents for us a two-fold example.
First, Lazarus allows us to see how important witness is to our story. From the moment that he walked out of the tomb, his story became a beacon, shining light on the Way, Truth, and Life. He could say that he was literally dead in his sin, and was brought to life by a relationship with the living God.
This inescapably joyful conversion goes to show us that no matter the time, presentation, or conversation we have with a teen, coworker or family member, our witness needs to be at the forefront of our ministry. There is a reason that Pope Paul VI tells that people “listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they listen to teachers is it because they are first witnesses” (Evangellii Nuntiandi 46). Our ministry needs to start in a place of joy in our own conversion. Only then can we reflect that joy out to others.
The life of Lazarus also goes to show us that our ministry does not simply end when we close our office doors and go home at the end of each day. We see that Lazarus’ life was so inextricably tied to that of Christ that people were willing to kill him in order to stop that life from converting others. In short, Lazarus’ very life was a ministry.
The trap that is so easy to fall into when we are paid to do ministry is that we treat it as if it were a job based on results and a set schedule.
What we have to realize is that we don’t minister because we get paid to do it. We don’t even minister because we like it. We minister and evangelize because we have chosen to call ourselves Catholic and therefore submit ourselves to the Great Commission that comes with that identity. It doesn’t matter what our job is. Our single greatest task is to obey the words of our Brother and Lord when he said…
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Lazarus, by preaching the Good News by his very life, and not simply his words, helps to give us a template by which we can shape our own ministry and journey of faith. The call is not to make a name for ourselves or to be good ministers from nine to five. We are given our life and our relationships in order to “be all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22) that we encounter that Jesus, not us, may be given all the glory and honor that is His due.