Monday, November 4, 2013

Lectio notes: John 11:1-16

Chapter 11 of St John's Gospel takes us to the key story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  Today's verses set the scene.  Nothing seems to be going well: one of Jesus' closest friends is dying; and things are so tense with the Jewish authorities that the disciples are convinced they will be martyred with him if they return to Judaea.


The Greek, Latin and Knox translation can be found at the New Advent page linked to above.  And you can listen to the Latin here.

The Latin:

1 Erat autem quidam languens Lazarus a Bethania, de castello Mariæ et Marthæ sororis ejus. 2 (Maria autem erat quæ unxit Dominum unguento, et extersit pedes ejus capillis suis: cujus frater Lazarus infirmabatur.) 3 Miserunt ergo sorores ejus ad eum dicentes: Domine, ecce quem amas infirmatur. 4 Audiens autem Jesus dixit eis: Infirmitas hæc non est ad mortem, sed pro gloria Dei, ut glorificetur Filius Dei per eam. 5 Diligebat autem Jesus Martham, et sororem ejus Mariam, et Lazarum. 6 Ut ergo audivit quia infirmabatur, tunc quidem mansit in eodem loco duobus diebus; 7 deinde post hæc dixit discipulis suis: Eamus in Judæam iterum. 8 Dicunt ei discipuli: Rabbi, nunc quærebant te Judæi lapidare, et iterum vadis illuc? 9 Respondit Jesus: Nonne duodecim sunt horæ diei? Si quis ambulaverit in die, non offendit, quia lucem hujus mundi videt: 10 si autem ambulaverit in nocte, offendit, quia lux non est in eo. 11 Hæc ait, et post hæc dixit eis: Lazarus amicus noster dormit: sed vado ut a somno excitem eum. 12 Dixerunt ergo discipuli ejus: Domine, si dormit, salvus erit. 13 Dixerat autem Jesus de morte ejus: illi autem putaverunt quia de dormitione somni diceret. 14 Tunc ergo Jesus dixit eis manifeste: Lazarus mortuus est: 15 et gaudeo propter vos, ut credatis, quoniam non eram ibi, sed eamus ad eum. 16 Dixit ergo Thomas, qui dicitur Didymus, ad condiscipulos: Eamus et nos, ut moriamur cum eo.

The English (Douay-Rheims):

1] Now there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha her sister. [2] (And Mary was she that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair: whose brother Lazarus was sick.) [3] His sisters therefore sent to him, saying: Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. [4] And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it. [5] Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus.[6] When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he still remained in the same place two days. [7] Then after that, he said to his disciples: Let us go into Judea again. [8] The disciples say to him: Rabbi, the Jews but now sought to stone thee: and goest thou thither again? [9] Jesus answered: Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: [10] But if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him. [11] These things he said; and after that he said to them: Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. [12] His disciples therefore said: Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. [13] But Jesus spoke of his death; and they thought that he spoke of the repose of sleep. [14] Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly: Lazarus is dead. [15] And I am glad, for your sakes, that I was not there, that you may believe: but let us go to him.[16] Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with him.


Some extracts from St Augustine's Tractate 49.  First, the importance of the resurrection miracles:

"Among all the miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Lazarus holds a foremost place in preaching. But if we consider attentively who did it, our duty is to rejoice rather than to wonder... 

For surely the Lord's deeds are not merely deeds, but signs. And if they are signs, besides their wonderful character, they have some real significance: and to find out this in regard to such deeds is a somewhat harder task than to read or hear of them. 

We were listening with wonder, as at the sight of some mighty miracle enacted before our eyes, in the reading of the Gospel, how Lazarus was restored to life. If we turn our thoughts to the still more wonderful works of Christ, every one that believes rises again: if we all consider, and understand that more horrifying kind of death, everyone who sins dies. 

But every man is afraid of the death of the flesh; few, of the death of the soul. In regard to the death of the flesh, which must certainly come some time, all are on their guard against its approach: this is the source of all their labor. Man, destined to die, labors to avert his dying; and yet man, destined to live for ever, labors not to cease from sinning. And when he labors to avoid dying, he labors to no purpose, for its only result will be to put off death for a while, not to escape it; but if he refrain from sinning, his toil will cease, and he shall live for ever."

Mary and Martha send word to Jesus, yet he still stays away:

"They did not say, Come; for the intimation was all that was needed for one who loved. They did not venture to say, Come and heal him: they ventured not to say, Command there, and it shall be done here. And why not so with them, if on these very grounds the centurion's faith was commended? For he said, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Matthew viii No such words said these women, but only, Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick. It is enough that You know; for You are not one that loves and forsakes. But says some one, How could a sinner be represented by Lazarus, and be so loved by the Lord? Let him listen to Him, when He says, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Matthew 9:13 For had not God loved sinners, He would not have come down from heaven to earth.

But when Jesus heard [that], He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified. Such a glorifying of Himself did not add to His dignity, but benefited us. Hence He says, is not unto death, because even that death itself was not unto death, but rather unto the working of a miracle whereby men might be led to faith in Christ, and so escape the real death. And mark how the Lord, as it were indirectly, called Himself God, for the sake of some who deny that the Son is God. For there are heretics who make such a denial, that the Son of God is God. Let them hearken here: This sickness, He says, is not unto death, but for the glory of God. For what glory? For the glory of what God? Hear what follows: That the Son of God may be glorified. This sickness, therefore, He says, is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God maybe glorified thereby. By what? By that sickness...

"They sent Him word: He abode where He was: and the time ran on till four days were completed. And not in vain, were it only that perhaps, nay that certainly, even the very number of days has some sacramental significance. Then after that He says again to His disciples, Let us go into Judea: where He had been all but stoned, and from which He had apparently departed for the very purpose to escape being stoned. For as man He departed; but returned as if in forgetfulness of all infirmity, to show His power. Let us go, He said, into Judea."

One of the important parts of this passage seems to me to be the disciples false bravado when faced with the prospect of martyrdom: the say the words, but as we know from the reality of the crucifixion, they are not yet truly steadfast in faith:

And now see how the disciples were terrified at His words. The disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone You, and You are going there again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? What does such an answer mean? They said to Him, The Jews of late sought to stone You, and You are going there again to be stoned? 

And the Lord, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world: but if he walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him. He spoke indeed of the day, but to our understanding as if it were still the night. Let us call upon the Day to chase away the night, and illuminate our hearts with the light. For what did the Lord mean? As far as I can judge, and as the height and depth of His meaning breaks into light, He wished to argue down their doubting and unbelief. For they wished by their counsel to keep the Lord from death, who had come to die, to save themselves from death. 

In a similar way also, in another passage, St. Peter, who loved the Lord, but did not yet fully understand the reason of His coming, was afraid of His dying, and so displeased the Life, to wit, the Lord Himself; for when He was intimating to the disciples what He was about to suffer at Jerusalem at the hands of the Jews, Peter made reply among the rest, and said, Far be it from You, Lord; pity Yourself: this shall not be unto You. And at once the Lord replied, Get behind me, Satan: for you savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.... 

We can take a certain comfort I think in this, for it tells us that the spiritual journey we must all follow is long, and has many stumbling points, yet if we simply do our best to follow Christ, we will eventually develop the true courage of grace.

You can find the next set of notes here.

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