Lent V – John 11:44-45

44 And presently he that had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with winding bands; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them: Loose him, and let him go.

Chrysostom: He came forth bound, that none might suspect that he was a mere phantom. . . . Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, that by going near and touching him they might be certain he was the very person. And let him go. His humility is strewn here; He does not take Lazarus about with Him for the sake of display.

Gregory: The maiden is restored to life in the house [Matt 9:18-25], the young man outside the gate [Luke 7:11-17], Lazarus in his grave. She that lies dead in the house, is the sinner dying in sin: he that is carried out by the gate is the openly and notoriously wicked.

Augustine: Or, it is death within; when the evil thought has not come out into action. But if you actually do the evil thing, you have as it were carried the dead outside the gate.

Gregory: And one there is who lies dead in his grave, with a load of earth upon him; i.e. who is weighed down by habits of sin. But the Divine grace has regard even to such, and enlightens them.

Augustine: Or we may take Lazarus in the grave as the soul laden with earthly sins.

And yet our Lord loved Lazarus. For had He not loved sinners, He would never have come down from heaven to save them. Well is it said of one of sinful habits, that He stinks.

That Lazarus came forth from the grave, signifies the soul’s deliverance from carnal sins. That he came bound up in grave clothes means, that even we who are delivered from carnal things, and serve with the mind the law of God, yet cannot, so long as we are in the body, be free from the besetments of the flesh. That his face was bound about with a napkin means, that we do not attain to full knowledge in this life. And when our Lord says, Loose him, and let him go, we learn that in another world all veils will be removed, and that we shall see face to face.

Or thus: When thou despisest, thou liest dead; when thou confessest, thou comest forth. For what is to come forth, but to go out, as it were, of your hiding place, and show yourself? But you cannot make this confession, except God move you to it, by crying with a loud voice, i.e. calling you with great grace. But even after the dead man has come forth, he remains bound for some time, i.e. is as yet only a penitent. Then our Lord says to His ministers, Loose him, and let him go, i.e. remit his sins: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [Matt 18:18]

Alcuin: Christ awakes, because His power it is which quickens us inwardly: the disciples loose, because by the ministry of the priesthood, they who are quickened are absolved.

45 Many therefore of the Jews, who were come to Mary and Martha, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in him.

Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. IV (London: Rivington, 1845).

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