Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead, and many are coming to believe in him. There is a buzz in the air and expectations are high for this new prophet in their midst–after all, who wouldn’t be amazed by the dead coming to life again?
Yet it turns out that the chief priests and members of the Sanhedrin are less than thrilled. These supposed leaders of the Jewish people are really Roman collaborators, and they recognize the threat to their power that Jesus represents.
Oppressive governments the world over depend ultimately on the threat of death to subjugate its people. Thus, to maintain control over its vast territory, tax its people, and extract wealth, the Roman empire relied on torture, imprisonment, and the death penalty.
In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus upends an imperial order predicated on the power of death. Its leaders recognize that a people no longer afraid of death is a people who will no longer be docile in the face of oppression. “So from that day on they planned to kill him.”
In every age, there are those whose lives, labor, and ultimately, death, are wrested from them to serve the greed of the elite. For 84 years, the Catholic Worker movement has endeavored to stand with the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated – those dregs of capitalism, upon whose misery our wealth depends. Jesus’ life and death show that to live on the underside of a powerful empire can be precarious; it is also where life and freedom are found.
- Where do we choose to stand? Do we stand with the elite, who benefit from the death of others, or do we dare to stand with Jesus, and thereby throw in our lot with those targeted for death?
- How do I unwittingly benefit from the misery imposed on others? This Lent, what would it mean to truly “repent” of this sin in my life?
- How are we invited to choose life in the deepest sense, rooting our entire lives in the love of our God of Life?
Fumi Tosu is a peacemaker, storyteller, and teacher. He currently works as director of recruitment and engagement for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. Prior to this, he was a Catholic Worker at Casa de Clara Catholic Worker in San Jose, CA. He received his master of divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.