Listening with Lazarus in the time of the Rona

My breath catches over the steaming cup of tea. I have curled myself around the tea in my sickbed. The tea is at the center of my hoard of pillows, blankets, and the small, bright screen where I read that people think that Lazarus was sad after he rose. It was that assertion that made my breath catch. It’s absurd. It’s an affront. How could they think that?

Don’t they know that Lazarus was filled with joy at hearing the voice he had always listened for?

Lazarus was listening for Jesus long before he died. He would hear his friend’s voice on the road of an afternoon and rush to find his sisters.

“Martha, bring the good olives. Mary, set out your finest cheese. I will get the water to wash his feet.”

He listened for the voice on his sickbed, his deathbed, and in the tomb, he listened.

“Lazarus, come forth,” he heard, and he roused himself as he had many times before, under starlight and hot sun, to greet his friend and Lord.

He listened through the week of palms and the passion, too. He listened for the resurrection and heard as in an echo his sister’s words on the morning it happened. Prophecies have a way of being true in all directions. Martha said that already there would be an odor when the tomb was unsealed. When Jesus rose, Lazarus rose from his bed in Bethany and stepped outside to breathe the odor of the life wind that rushed out from the Lord’s tomb. His sisters were on their way with myrrh and spices, but this wind smelled of a garden ripe in the sun with every fruit in season and every herb at its prime. The breath of life itself flowed over him, and he knew what it meant. His own rising rhymed with it a little, the way a child’s poem almost rhymes an obstacle with the things she loves.

The wind blew him to the island where he became bishop of a flock and taught others to listen for the voice of their Shepherd. He was always listening, always expecting the joy of the Lord’s return.

He heard the voice all his second life. He greeted beggars as though they were his friend. He set out food before the hungry ones as he had for his friend. He washed their feet. He listened to them and spoke with them and shared with them the fire that kept their bodies warm and the hope that warmed their souls.

People who rise do not sorrow. They watch. They hope. They know the shape of joy to be greater than smiles. They know the shape of love is greater than death.

I am back to myself, here in my bed of convalescence. For weeks I have waited, to breathe freely, to have my strength restored, to hear my Lord calling me into life, here or there, though I tell him bluntly that I am still needed here, please. Gradually, propped up on pillows, I have arrived at Lazarus’ day. He is gentle company, because he sees what does not end. There is no fear in him.

I wonder if he craved salty cheese when he arose, and if his sisters brought him broth for weeks after his rising. Does one convalesce after death, or is that a need only for those who were pushed near death by a virus or some other threat (though for me it was the virus)? Tell me what water tasted like to you when you rose. Tell me how your attention shifted.

Where did you listen for him? Where do you hear him?

Why are you so quiet, Lazarus? What does He say?

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