I visited the tomb of Lazarus in November 2010 while in the Holy Land. It’s only a few hundred yards from the Passionist house, St Martha, in Bethany, where I was staying, but because of the Israeli security wall you now have to drive about 13 miles around the wall to get there.
Some sisters from the nearby Comboni convent drove me there on their way to go food shopping one day. As I approached the tomb a group of about 30 pilgrims from one of the slavic countries were entering the tomb, so I stayed outside till they left. During the 2nd World War over 40 million people were killed by Hitler and Stalin in what’s been called “The Bloodlands,” parts of Eastern Europe that were fought over so viciously. Were these people going down to the tomb from that part of the world, bringing memories of “The Bloodlands,” I wondered?
They started to sing in harmony their beautiful eastern chants and the haunting, glorious music came up from the dark rock cavern below. Lazarus was being celebrated again and his tomb rang with their joyful song.
“Lazarus, come out!”
And not only were they celebrating the raising of Lazarus but our hope of resurrection too.
The dark tomb was still ringing with their singing when I went in. Joyful song from a tomb. Lazarus represents us all. That’s the powerful message from our gospel today which prepares us for the life-giving death of Jesus.