“Oh, if only there were nothing else to do but to praise the Lord our God with all our heart and tongue!” (IC 1,25,10) | “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.” (Jn 11:45)

It seems fitting to end this chapter (1,25) and, thus, Book One of The Imitation of Christ, with the words above.  If God consumes “our heart and tongue” then all that we do will be in accord with God’s will and we will work all the more diligently to correct all the deficiencies in ourselves that he has not hesitated to point out.  Kempis goes on to the bemoan the fact that, sadly, of fleshly necessity, we must eat, drink, and sleep instead of being entirely focused on spiritual things.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  While all gospels tell of Jesus raising persons from the dead, this particular episode only appears in John (11:1-45).  Jesus, upon hearing of Lazarus’s illness and the call of his sisters to come heal his friend, delays the visit in order to manifest in a special way the glory of God.  When Jesus finally arrives with the apostles, the poor man has already been dead and buried four days.  Martha is bothered that Jesus did not come post haste, but still expresses faith.  In front of many, Jesus cries, but then orders the tomb opened at which time He calls Lazarus to come out.  The line in the headline concludes the story.

I bring the two quotes together because it is not hard to imagine that, for at least Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (and hopefully many more in the crowd who “began to believe”), they must have desired to unceasingly “praise the Lord our God with all our heart and tongue” after this unexpected event — their beloved brother was returned to the sisters!  Now, of course, as Kempis lays out in this chapter, we should wish that nothing would distract us from this disposition.  But, life and nature being what it is, we can only continue to strive, by the grace of God, to approach the Lord in this way in all our tasks and circumstances.  It is unlikely that we will ever witness a miracle like the one proclaimed today; our challenge is to give glory and praise to God in everything, even when it’s difficult to understand how a greater good will come from it (that may only come in the next life).

As an aside, in my reading of this passage, I noticed (or at least interiorized) for the first time that this last sentence says the Jews “had come to Mary” (presumably referring back to v. 31 when they followed her to the tomb).  Now, of course, the context refers to Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’s and Martha’s sister.  But, in finally taking note of this, it is impossible not to think of another Mary, Jesus’ own mother, and how she can be an avenue to show what her Son has done (leading them first to the tomb and then bearing witness to the Resurrection) and to help people believe in Him and come to praise Him.  I am certain that both Marys are available for that assistance right now and until the end of time.  Mary of Nazareth and Mary of Bethany, draw ever more persons to Jesus!

As an aside to the aside, there is debate as to whether Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are the same person.  I have heard good arguments on both sides of this question.  But it is worth pondering: is it not somehow fitting that both(?) Marys are the first to tombs (Lazarus’s; Jesus’) and led others there (the Jews; Peter and John)?

Parma - The fresco of Assmption of Virgin Mary in side cupola of church Chiesa di Santa Cristina by Filippo Maria Galletti (1636-1714).

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