those dead days

Jul 29, 2021


If you’re familiar with the church calendar of saints you might recall today, July 29, as the feast of Martha and Mary.

There was a change to this feast a few months ago when Pope Francis added Lazarus to the day, making today the first celebration of the new obligatory memorial for Martha Mary and Lazarus, the siblings who were friends of Jesus.

In his January decree Pope Francis reflects:

“In the household of Bethany the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them. Martha generously offered him hospitality, Mary listened attentively to his words and Lazarus promptly emerged from the tomb at the command of the One who humiliated death.”

I like the idea of the three being celebrated together as one team of disciples. We remember each of the three for their own unique qualities, Martha’s hospitality, Mary’s contemplation, and Lazarus, the one who even in death responded to Jesus’ call to be free.

Perhaps this is a theme for the newly-expanded celebration: we are not saved alone, we need others. We especially need those who Jesus gives to us not only as biological siblings but much more importantly the friends Jesus gives us in the new family of faith to lead us into greater maturity.

Lazarus is often referred to as “four-days-dead-Lazarus” and I can’t help but add a thought inspired by Lazarus’ willingness to let Jesus bring him back from death. There are moments many days, and minutes and even hours and sometimes days every week when we feel a bit dead. If these times are too extended we can become attached to this darkness, choosing the safety of our familiar entombment over the adventure of abundant life we are created for.

Perhaps our tombs can be attachment to the many mirages that surround us, the patterns of behaviour, thought and relationship that look enticing and in the moment seem to satisfy, but in fact are a taste of death since we are left feeling unsatisfied and more desolate.

Jesus continues to call us to live again, to leave the tomb and live not only again but live anew.

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” … When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go free.”

Today’s point to ponder:

  • Invite Jesus to reveal to you the way in which he wants to unbind you and to let you go free. Now invite Jesus to set you free.

Today’s Readings

Julia Stankova (Bulgarian, 1954–), Resurrection of Lazarus, 2006. Painting on wooden panel, 30 × 40 cm.


  1. So many questions raised by this story, so perhaps our freedom comes from accepting the mystery of life and death in total trust, and discovering that in God we also belong to each other. Beautiful painting.

  2. I felt reassured by today’s reflection – I sometimes feel ‘a bit dead’ and this can feel very isolating.

  3. Thankyou for sharing this today- it is so timely for me as I prepare to visit a specialist this afternoon to hear what can be done about the return of cancer.

    • May God be always with you.

  4. Thank You for this wonderful reflection.

  5. Days on after reading your reflection Pope Francis obligatory memorial – Martha Mary and Lazarus – I still have that wonderful feeling of love and compassion for my siblings. When I first read it I had an inner skip of joy.
    We are not saved alone, we need others.
    I saw only joy in this reflection and positivity of self and those around me. Thank you for bring those three wonderful people into my life as siblings. SKJ


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