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A very eminent Biblical scholar of the present day answers this difficulty by observing that when Moses wrote Leviticus and Deuteronomy, he was not in Jerusalem, or in the hill country of Judea, where the climate is colder and the harvest later; but on his way from Egypt, in warmer climates where the crops ripened early; and he moreover adds that if later the Priests in Jerusalem were bound to the letter of this Law, they would do as we do when we want palms for Palm Sunday. We get them from more favoured climes: so could the Jewish Priests have sheaves ready from warmer lands or from the sunny plains round Jericho or Joppe, in order to fulfil the precept of the Law.
2. Those who place the raising of Lazarus before Septuagesima do so because they wish to prove that after this miracle our Saviour made a last solemn progress through Samaria and Galilee, and then returned to suffer in Jerusalem. They consider that St. Luke is the only Evangelist who tells the story of this last solemn progress, and that the parables of the Prodigal Son, and the Rich Man, and the Healing of the Lepers, and other incidents which he alone records, belong to this last journey. What gives some colour to this theory is, that on the Good Friday the Jewish Rulers advanced this charge, among others, against Jesus : He stirreth up the people, beginning from Galilee to this place (St. Luke xxiii.). This accusation, the holders of this theory maintain, would have much more foundation and more weight it our Saviour had just been making His public progress through Galilee.
Whatever may be said in favour of this opinion, there is one argument against it to which we find no satisfactory answer. In St. Luke ix. we read that our Lord steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers into a city of the Samaritans to prepare for Him, but the Samaritans would not receive Him, because His face was of one going to Jerusalem.
The words seem to express very clearly that our Saviour was at the time travelling from Galilee southward to Jerusalem. Whereas they who believe in this last solemn progress are obliged to assume that He was then really travelling northward with His back to Jerusalem; but, they add, it was publicly known that He intended to come back to Jerusalem, and there. fore the Evangelist writes that His face was of one going to Jerusalem. It seems more easy to adhere to the common opinion than to receive this strained interpretation.
We may therefore suppose that we are commencing our study of our Lord's last days on earth about three weeks before the first Good Friday,
All are, I think, agreed that the raising of Lazarus was beginning of the end”; as it was immediately after this great miracle that the Priests and Ancients adopted the ruling of Caiphas, that one Man should die for the people (St. John xi.), and began in good earnest to compass His Death.
LAZARUS SICK AT BETHANY.
There was a certain man sick named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and of Martha her sister (St. John xi. 1).
1. There were two towns called Bethany, one beyond the Jordan, the other, the home of Lazarus, situated about two miles, by the high road, from Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of Mount Olivet. This hill, therefore, which lies along the eastern side of Jerusalem, hides Bethany from the Holy City. The high road goes round the southern base of the hill. A shorter, but exceedingly rough bridle path leads from Gethsemani over the Mount of Olives to Bethania. By this path a good walker could go in about three quarters of an hour from the eastern gate of Jerusalem, commonly known as St. Stephen's gate, to the home of Lazarus. Our Blessed Saviour sometimes went by the high road, sometimes over the Mount of Olives.
Station 1.-In the Sick-room at Bethany.
There was a certain man sick named Lazarus (v. 1).
A. It is good for us to be here, in this sick chamber. It is better to go to (this) house of mourning than to the house of feasting: for in this (house) we are put in mind of the end of all, and the living thinketh what is to come (Eccles. vii.). "O vos omnes”-O all you who go by the way, stay a little while in this sick-room, to see with your eyes, and to listen with your ears.
Look upon Lazarus, languens—weak and languid and weary and pale, with the signs of coming death upon him --but very patient. Listen : you hear no complaint from him. Watch his sisters Mary and Martha, how they nurse him most carefully, and from time to time turn away to hide from him their tears. St. Augustine writes : “ He sick; they sorrowful; all beloved”. St. Paul forewarns us that in the latter days there will be men without affection, without kindness (2 Timothy iii.). There is no want of affection of kindness in this blessed home,
Listen to the words which Mary and Martha so often whisper to each other—“ Would that He were here! “Would that the Master were here!” " If the Master were here our brother would not die." Mark how all the while Jesus is with them unseen, hearing every sigh, giving heed to every wish of their hearts, pitying every tear. I ain with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and will glorify him (Psalm xc.).
B. How great a blessing it is to have round our deathbed true friends, full of the spirit of Christian faith and charity, who take better care of our poor souls than of our bodies ! Alas! they who forget God end by forgetting themselves also. They make no provision for the evil day. In life they choose to have a worldly and an unblessed marriage, and now at death they are surrounded by nurses, by physicians, and by relatives who cannot possibly understand the spiritual requirements of a dying Catholic. There is not one to pity their souls in the hour of extreme need, nor one to say when all is over, O God, may eternal light shine upon him!
Lazarus of Bethania, of the town of Mary and of Martha her sister (St. John xi. 1). It is worth notice that where we have in our version the same word twice, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha, the Greek text uses two different words, årò and ék. And though some eminent Greek scholars attach no importance to this change in the words, yet there are circumstances which, if brought together, seem to make it probable that our version would be more correct if it also had two different words, and ran thus: “Lazarus of Bethania, from the town of Mary and Martha". The sense would then be : Lazarus, now of Bethania, but originally from the town of Mary and of Martha.
If this be the correct reading, where was the town of Mary and of Martha ?
We find a clue to the answer in St. Luke's words, Mary who is called Magdalen (St. Luke viii.). Why was she called Magdalen ? A very natural answer presents itself. Because she was a native of Magdala, a fishing village in Galilee, on the north-west side of the Lake of Genesareth, below Capharnaum and Bethsaidą,
If these surmises be correct, then Lazarus was originally a Galilean from Magdala, but subsequently settled in Bethania ; or probably had home in both places. There are many words in the Gospel narrative which fit in well with this supposition.
1. For in the first place Mary Magdalen was not poor. She was one of those who with Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward, and many others, ministered unto (our Lord) of their substance (St. Luke viii.). Therefore it might well be that, like others, she and her brother had a home in Galilee, and one also near Jerusalem. Tradition tells us, for instance, of St. Joachim and St. Anne that they had a home at Sephoris in Galilee, a home also at Nazareth, and also a home in Jerusalem. The Fathers who belong to the Congregation founded for Africa by Cardinal Lavigerie, and who are known in Jerusalem as les Pères Blancs, claim to have in Jerusalem the sanctuary in which the Immaculate Conception of our Lady took place, and where Holy Mary was born. There is also a tradition that some part, at least, of the farm, or garden, at Gethsemani belonged to St. Joachim and St. Anne, and afterwards to our Lady, and that the family sepulchre was there where the church now stands.
2. Again, in St. Luke viii. we find St. Mary Magdalen coupled with Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward, and ministering to our Lord in Galilee. As Herod was Tetrarch, or King, of Galilee, this points also to the inference that Mary was one of the devout women who followed our Lord from Galilee.
3. Again, it seems tolerably clear from St. Luke vii. that Magdalen's forgiveness in the house of Simon the Pharisee took place in Galilee; at Magdala, as some think, or, according to others, at Naim. For in the same chapter we find our Lord at Capharnaum, and at Naim, and again, in St. Luke viii., crossing the Lake of Genesareth. We also find the messengers arriving who had been sent by John the Baptist, who was at that time imprisoned in Galilee by Herod.
4. Then, too, we twice find St. Mary Magdalen anointing our Lord's feet at a banquet; and we moreover find Martha serving at the supper in the house of Simon the leper. All this would be more intelligible if the owner of the houses were a kinsman of Mary and Martha; and accordingly we find Theophylact, early in the seventh century, recording a tradition to this effect: “Some say the leper was the father of Lazarus”. And as this Simon also was evidently a man of some substance, there is no improbability in the conjecture that he too had a home in Galilee and a home near Jerusalem, and that in fact, Simon the Pharisee, whose house was in Galilee, was no other than Simon the leper of Bethany, who had been cured by our Lord, and was therefore grateful not only for the raising of Lazarus, but also for his own cure.
5. Again, this conjecture, or theory, fits in well with the known fact that our Lord's disciples were drawn mainly from Galilee. It is said that Judas Iscariot (or of Kerioth) was the only one of the twelve Apostles who was a native of Judea. All the others were from Galilee, four of them, if not five, cousins of our Blessed Saviour. In an essay written by the late Cardinal Wiseman, we read that our Lord spent two of the three years of His Public Life in Galilee, either on the Lake of Genesareth, or on the shores of that Lake, which, with its storms and its fishermen, was to His mind a picture of His future Church.
6. Lastly. One more circumstance which supports this view is that the house where Martha was busy about many things while Mary sat at the feet of her Master, was apparently in Galilee; for in the same chapter we find our Saviour apostrophizing as present, the villages of Bethsaida and Corozain and Capharnaum, which are all in the neighbourhood of the Lake of Genesareth.
And Mary was she who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair (St. John xi. 2).
We, Catholics, commonly take it for granted, and with Holy Church's sanction, that the penitent who washed the feet of our Lord with her tears in the house of Simon the Pharisee and anointed them with her fragrant ointment (St. Luke vii.), was no other than this Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who, soon after, a second time anointed our Lord in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. Some critics in this country and elsewhere hold that we have no good ground for our opinion. If it were certain that St. John was here alluding to the first anointing in the house of Simon the Pharisee, this passage would end the controversy; but the adverse critics contend that it is not likely that St. John is alluding to a scene which he himself does not record in his Gospel, and which is only found in St. Luke. They therefore hold that in these words St. John has before his mind the second anointing at Bethany, which he has not indeed as yet mentioned, but which was described many years before in the Gospel of St. Matthew. As St. John did not write till thirty years after the raising of Lazarus, it is quite possible that he is alluding to the second anointing, which was perhaps better known among the disciples than the first. However this may be, the sense of the faithful is, and has been, that St. Luke's penitent, who was forgiven in the house of Simon the Pharisee (St. Luke vii.), and St. Luke's Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth (St. Luke viii.), and St. John's Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha, are all one and the same holy person, and we would rather think with all the faithful so long as we may, that is, until their judgment is proved erroneous. The mind of Holy Church on this point seems to be clear. For the Saint Magdalen honoured by the Church is doubtless the Mary of Bethany whose devotion, our Lord foretold, shall be preached wherever His Gospel is preached (St. Matt. xxvii.). But, in the Mass for St. Magdalen's day, the Gospel read is St. Luke's story of the conversion of the