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penitent. This surely implies that Holy Church considers Mary the sister of Lazarus and St. Luke's penitent to be the same person.
His sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick (St. John xi. 3).
Where was our Lord when this message was sent to Him? We can answer this question from the preceding chapter of St. John's Gospel. We are now, according to our reckoning, in the beginning of the month of March. In the previous December Jesus was in Jerusalem. It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem : and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch (St. John X. 22).
In the course of His preaching on this occasion He uttered the words, I and the Father are One. Whereupon, the Jews took up stones to stone Him. Our Lord reasoned with them mildly to show them that He was not blaspheming ; but when He said, If I do (the works of My Father) though you will not believe Me, believe the works : that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father, they sought to take Him; and He escaped out of their hands (x. 39). And He went again beyond the Jordan into that place where John was baptising first; and there He abode. And inany resorted to Him, and they said : John indeed did no sign. But all things whatsoever John said of this Man were true : and many believed in Him (x. 42). Our Blessed Lord is therefore about forty miles distant from Bethany, beyond Jericho and beyond the Jordan, at a small town, as commentators tell us, called Bethabara, which is supposed to have stood near the eastern bank of the Jordan, opposite that Monastery of St. John on the western bank which the schismatic Greeks occupy at present.
Here, then, our Blessed Saviour is teaching and converting many, when the messengers are sent to Him from Bethany.
It may be worth while at this point to interrupt the narrative for a little while, in order to understand why our Saviou, thus takes refuge beyond the Jordan.
After the short and glorious career of Judas Machabeus and his brothers, their descendants, known as the Asmonean princes, struggled in vain against the enemies who surrounded Judea. At length the Romans, called in, probably, by one of the contending factions, gained a footing in Judea under Crassus and Pompey the Great. From that time Jewish princes were carried off as hostages to Rome and there educated, and were at times advanced to greatness by Roman favour. Lineal descent and legitimate title was not always respected. Through the influence of Mark Antony, Herod, who was not a Jew, but an Idumean, and had no title whatever to royalty, was declared King of Judea and Galilee and the country beyond the Jordan. This clever and most unscrupulous man became famous in Jewish history as Herod the Great. In his greatness he was not unlike our King Henry VIII. He was great in his crimes as well as in
He had more wives than our King Henry. One
of them, the unfortunate Mariamne, he murdered; and then consoled his grief by building a tower in her honour in Jerusalem. With her he also murdered her two children. He was drawing near the end of his life when he ordered the Massacre of the Innocents. He had also planned, it is said, a wholesale butchery of the Jewish nobles in order to make sure that there should be much mourning at his death. To compensate in some way for his enormities, he strove to win popularity by adorning and enriching Jerusalem. On the west side of the city he built the gorgeous palace known as the Palace of Herod the Great. On the eastern side he rebuilt with great skill, and rendered wellnigh impregnable, the old fortress of the Machabees called Baris. He changed its name to Antonia, in honour of his patron, Mark Antony. Here it was that Pilate afterwards had his Prætorium. Herod also enlarged and rendered far more magnificent the Temple that stood on Mount Moriah, close to the fortress Antonia.
It is a disputed point whether he survived the Massacre of the Innocents only a few months or about four
At his death he left behind him four sons, by three different mothers. Of these four sons one he disinherited. To Archelaus he left Judea; Galilee to Herod Antipas; Iturea and the country of Trachonitis to Philip (St. Luke iii. 1). Archelaus inherited his father's thirst for blood, and in consequence of his cruelties was deposed by the Romans, who thereupon seized his kingdom of Judea and annexed it to their province of Syria. Herod Antipas also inherited a large share of his father's wickedness. He it was that seduced Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,' and to please her put St. John the Baptist to death, and afterwards mocked our Lord.
At the time, then, when Lazarus was sick, the kingdom of Herod the Great had been dismembered; and so, by crossing the Jordan, our Lord was out of the power of the Jews, and under another government.
SCENE II. BEYOND THE JORDAN WHERE JESUS IS PREACHING.
His sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, Lord, behold he
whom Thou lovest is sick (St. John xi. 3). A. “ Attendite et videte.” Stay a little while, you who pass by, to see and to listen. See our Lord surrounded by His Apostles and disciples when the messengers arrive
1 Not Philip the Tetrarch, but the other Philip, the disinherited son.
much tired, for they have come in haste. Listen attentively to the words of the message, and, though our Blessed Saviour seems to hear it in calm tranquillity, try to realise how the humble prayer fills His compassionate Heart with tenderness and a most earnest desire to give speedy help to His suffering servants.
B. He whom Thou lovest is sick. Consider these words. The sorrowing sisters could have said, “He who loves Thee so well is sick,” but theirs is a better prayer. Our Lord's Heart loves Lazarus infinitely more than Lazarus loves Him, though Lazarus is so faithful. There is always sure footing—the very surest—when we rest our hopes on our Lord's love for us.
C. And this is a prayer which we can all safely make. We cannot all say, with St. Peter, Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee (St. John xxi.), but each of us can say most truly of himself, Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick. Often and often we ought to renew our faith in this glorious truth : He loved me, and delivered Himself up for ine (Galat. ii.). So too there is not one of us who cannot say with our Lady, He that is mighty hath done great things for me (St. Luke i.).
Ď. Even when I have sinned, I can still say, Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick-or, is dead. For Thou, O God, art gracious and true, patient, and ordering all things in mercy, For (even) if we sin we are Thine (Wisdom xv.). as St. Paul tells us, when we were sinners, when we were enemies, that Christ died for us (Romans v.). Therefore St. John, who so well understood the Heart of our Lord, writes: My little children, these things I write to you that you nay not sin. But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Fust. Every one looks out for chances of exercising his own calling. Physicians make haste to houses where there is some one sick; undertakers only go to homes where one lies dead. Our Lord's special calling is, to seek and to save that which was lost (St. Luke xix.). It is by saving sinners that He earns His name of Jesus, which to Him is a name above all names (Philipp. ii.).
E. He whom Thou lovest. What a title! Where can I find one so full of hope and consolation ? If, O Lord, my God, I am indeed he whom Thou lovest, well
1 my soul, “Quare tristis es anima mea ?” Why art thou sad, my soul ? why dost thou trouble me?
O yes, blessed St. Mary Magdalen and blessed St. Martha acted most wisely to shape their prayer as they did: Had they said, “We have loved Thee well, O Lord, and Lazarus our brother has been devoted to Thee,” this would have been a good prayer ; but He was with them by the sick-bed, and was prompting their petition according to His own Heart. “ Thou lovest our brother, dear Master, and for Thy own sake Thou wilt be good to him.” In that prayer which had such power in Heaven, Daniel, the man of desires, makes his strong appeal in the same way. O Lord, hear; O Lord, be appeased; hearken and do: delay not for Thy own sake (c. ix.).
F. Observe too how they ask for nothing. They would say to one another as they were framing their message, “We have no need to ask”. For their thought concerning their Master was the one that St. Augustine expresses : “ Our Lord Jesus does not love and forsake”.
G. Contemplate the intense compassion of our Saviour's Sacred Heart, while He is listening to the message; the consolation that His faithful servants give Him by their trust in Him; and how He yearns to grant them instant help, though He seems for the time to do nothing
STATION II. 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 (v. 4).
A. He said to them—that is, to the messengers from Mary and Martha—This sickness is for the glory of God. The sick and the sorrowful and the suffering so often jump to the conclusion, “ This trouble is sent me as a chastisement,” and they despond. So too we are apt to judge of other sufferers. Thus, when the disciples saw the man born blind, they at once asked : Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his father, that he should be born blind ? (St. John ix.). We come into the world with a disease, or insanity, upon us which inclines us always to believe without doubting that riches, honour, and pleasures are great blessings, and marks of God's special favour; and on the other hand, that poverty, sickness, pain, and disgrace, are always curses, and a chastisement of sin. It takes a long time and much labour, and a strong grace, to convince us that if for Himself and His Mother our Lord selected poverty and pain and the bitter chalice, these things must surely be something better than curses.
B. This sickness is not unto death. Even when sickness is sent as a chastisement, it is not always God's wish that it should be unto death. If the sick man would make haste to have recourse to God, and beg for absolution and the holy anointing, the sickness would oftentimes not be unto death. For as soon as sin is forgiven and the cause thus removed, then, as St. James tells us, the prayer of faith shall save the (anointed) sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up, and, as Holy Church prays, he will be restored safe and sound to his former duties in all that prosperity which he desires, and his friends desire for him.
C. This sickness is not unto death ; but for the glory of God. What a golden lesson for the sick! This sickness is sent that the Son of God may be glorified in you. You would prefer health ; but you will give great glory to your Creator and your Father in Heaven if you reverently say, Father, not my will, but Thine be done.
Fix well in your mind how very much our Lord is glorified by the patience of the sick and the charity of those who nurse.
STATION III. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus
(v. 5). A. That is with a special love. His love for us all is so unbounded and so far beyond our imaginings that none of us need be envious. But still, how blessed are