Isaiah 50:5-10 / John 12:1-9
A great multitude therefore of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but they they might see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
What attracts us more, Jesus Christ or the works done by him or inspired by his Spirit? On the face of it, this question is impertinent. Who, marked in baptism by the sign of the cross, and so marked by the very death of our Lord Jesus Christ, brought to new life in his Spirit and made a living member of his body, would possibly say that something other than Jesus is the center of his life? Even so, the second option is a powerfully tempting one. Is not serving the marginalized and brutalized more important than rectitude on the finer points of orthodoxy, we might well ask? Does a devotional life, a regular attendance at First Friday Masses and praying of chaplets of Divine Mercy make any sense where one's neighbors do not have enough to eat? Where the youth on one's street see a future with no hope, their only belonging in the common cause of violence and enslaving their brothers and sisters to drugs and prostitution? Where children hardly old enough to distinguish right from left are compelled to kill their own kinsmen to serve the political and egomaniacal fantasies of a criminal, or compelled to submit their bodies to serve the grotesque lusts of privileged men with twisted hearts?
Is it any wonder, then, that the multitude came to see Lazarus, the dead man brought back to life? This deliverance would seem to sum up the whole of every other deliverance we desire, for ourselves and for others. If we could choose to visit Jesus or to raise the latter-day Lazaruses in our world from the stench of their tombs, can we say with confidence that we would not opt for the latter and not the former? If our hearts are not with Judas Iscariot, might we not at least share the sentiment of his challenge to Jesus on Mary's anointing him with the pound of ointment of right spikenard? Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?
Yet, the truth is otherwise. The works of Christ have always been a means that the world might come to live more fully in him, that the world might know that Jesus Christ is Son of the eternal Father, and might know the Father who sent him. There is no right ordering of society, no right administration of justice, which is not open towards, indeed directed at least fundamentally if not explicitly, to the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, our Savior who died for us upon the Cross, and now is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father. This is life, this is fulness of human flourishing, and this alone answers the deepest need of every person under heaven, of every spirit, of every created thing. While one cannot claim to love Jesus and to want to see him and him alone and above all while doing nothing to remove the injustices that crush the life and hope from our brothers and sisters, offending their dignity and crying to heaven for vengeance, we cannot do so by instrumentalizing Jesus himself. Jesus is not the way to justice for the poor. Justice for the poor is both the way to and the fruit of our new life in Christ. It is only when Jesus Christ is first and before all that our every other work truly brings joy and flourishing to the world.