Fr Andrew Gliga
We have come to the end of Great Lent, our 40 days of fasting. Yesterday and today we celebrate two great feasts which are both intertwined. As we read in the Gospel today, the service today is actually a continuation of the feast which we celebrated yesterday: the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Since Lazarus Saturday is connected to Palm Sunday, we should first begin with the resurrection of Lazarus.
As we heard in the services yesterday, Christ's friend Lazarus, had gotten sick and passed away. And after 4 days of being in the grave, Christ came to perform one of his greatest miracles. When Christ came to the place where Lazarus was buried, a multitude of people were present to witness this great miracle. The scriptures say that people were unsure of what was going to take place, especially since this man Lazarus was already beyond resuscitation because he had been in the tomb for 4 days and his body began to decay. And yet, Christ commanded Lazarus to come forth and he was risen from the dead, his body restored from corruption.
And so the Gospel reading for today continues this story. It states that after Lazarus was raised by Christ he went to dine with Christ (which testifies that Lazarus was not a spirit but had an actual body that needed food to be sustained). While Christ and Lazarus had sat at table together, many people came to not only visit Jesus, but to see the risen Lazarus; to see with their own eyes the great miracles of God. This mighty wonder that Jesus performed was talked about throughout the region. People all over Judea had heard of the resurrection of Lazarus, how this man was raised after being dead for 4 days. This was a unique thing since most resurrections in the Old Testament had occurred shortly after death, but never had anyone been raised after the body had decayed. This caused most people to believe that Jesus was sent by God and they had a renewed faith in Him. This is why when Christ came to Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey the people had gathered together to see this man who had brought back a man 4 days dead. Heading about this great miracle and seeing Christ enter into Jerusalem they began to praise him saying "Hosana in the highest! Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord".
And yet throughout all this excitement, we see that there was also a negative aspect that crept up. As the gospel also relates, the Chief Priests now had plotted to first kill Lazarus and then to kill Christ. The reason behind this is because they saw that the people no longer needed to listen to the teachings of Christ to follow him, but rather there had been such an amazing miracle that clearly shows that Jesus Christ was God. Only God had dominion over creation and would be able to recreate the body of a man who began to decay. And so because of this the Pharisees knew they only had one way to stop Jesus: they had to put him to death.
Christ knew this, He knew his death was approaching. And yet He came to Jerusalem in peace, even though his enemies wanted his death. Every step Christ took in Jerusalem was one step closer to his passion and death. We hear from St. Athanasius "The Lord came not to die his own death but to die our death." (St Athanasius). Jesus came not to fight or to conquer but to suffer and die in the worst way possible, and he did so for each one of us. Christ came to Jerusalem on a donkey, a beast of burden, which was a sign of peace. Most rulers to assert their authority would choose to ride on a war horse, an animal that would instill fear in their subjects, and yet Christ did not. He came as a meek and humble servant, and not as a war hero. He came not to fight against the wicked men but came in quietness knowing what path lay before him: the path of suffering and hardship that would lead to our salvation.
And so this is what kind of example we should learn from, dear ones. How many times are we wronged and judged incorrectly by people around us? And instead of having the humility and peace that Christ has, we instead defend ourselves and try to justify our position. St Ignatius Brianchininov said: "The Lord remained silent before Pilate and Herod; He made no attempt to justify Himself. You must imitate His holy and wise silence when you see that your enemies accuse you, with every intention of certain conviction; they accuse only with the purpose of hiding their own evil intention under the guise of judgment" (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov). Our silence will bring to light the wrongdoings of others.
Today, there is so much talk and explanations of various worldly concerns. We live in an extremely divided nation. People are so against one another, whether due to a difference in political opinion, or hatred towards the Church because of Her teachings. People speak hours upon hours on the internet about these subjects. This is because there's just too much talk about nothing, too many useless words are being spoken about these subjects. People are speaking one to another in long eloquest speeches in order to try to convince people to take sides. And what ends up happening is someone will stand up in opposition and then heated arguments break out. After friendships are ruined and relationships become broken, we still find ourselves in the same position left alone with our presuppositions.
Instead of all of this, we should imitate Christ. Take His example of silence, meekness, and peacefulness, especially when He begins his final week before his passion. As the famous saying is: "Silence speaks louder than words". And through silence, we will find eternal peace.