Text for the Fifth Sunday of Lent 2017: John 11:1-45 – the Raising of Lazarus
This is a meditation that explores; it does not explain. I do not know how to explain what is still beyond my reach to understand.
My question is this: How much of the richly textured personality of the pre-resurrected Jesus continues in His post-resurrection personality? The Catechism of the Catholic Church remarks at  about how the resurrection constitutes a “glorified” body in relation to its pre-resurrection counterpart – “This how exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith.”
A questionable sense of propriety caused even very early commentators, and even the Gospel writers themselves, to “tidy up” the emotions noticed in the pre-resurrection Jesus.  But, occasionally a fuller, less guarded account of Jesus’ whole personality is given us to see in the Gospels, and then to wonder about it. For example, consider John 11:32-33 and 38:
32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became angry in spirit and was greatly agitated, 34 and he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ …. 38 Then Jesus, having again become angry in himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 
The anger and agitation of Jesus! Why is it that we have never seen a holy card, or icon, or painting of Jesus “angry in spirit and greatly agitated”? (We learn a lot about people, important things about what they value, not only when they are “nice” but when they are upset.) I am not saying that we would want to own such a painting if we found one. I am just wondering why no one has painted one – by one who loves “the whole Christ.” Does the capacity for such emotions continue with Jesus in His resurrected state and in his glorified personality at the right hand of the Father? Have we, without noticing it, “made insipid” or “tamed” Jesus as we visualize Him in prayer?  God is not tame!
Remember that moment at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, when the four Pevensie children came into Narnia through the wardrobe? After their meal, and then after the marmalade and biscuits for dessert, they began to talk, and the existence of Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia, came up. Susan expressed surprise at his being a Lion … and not a man:
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he— quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” “I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”
Let us wonder about the full richness of the personality of the earthly Jesus – the “whole Christ” – whom people found so compelling, so attractive, and at times so scary – the divine Person, fully God and fully human vividly expressed. We would not want to “lose” all of that because of the effect of the resurrection grace acting within His personality. How does this work?
The disciples, St. Paul, and the Evangelists must have wondered what of Jesus’ personality to share with others – this Jesus whom they knew and loved and whose lives were profoundly changed by Him?
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it,
Should they share their experience of the post-resurrection Jesus (what was He like?) – the same but different Jesus whom they got to know during those forty days after His being raised from the dead? Should they then read back that personality into the earthly personality they knew so well after their three years of experiences walking with Jesus in His great work?
Did the extraordinary grace of Jesus’ resurrection magnify His pre-resurrection personality, not alter it, so that the disciples experienced the whole personality of Jesus even more profoundly – the God-Man that He was. Or, did Jesus’ personality undergo a change, causing certain emotions (for example, anger and agitation), or other ways He had of reacting to things, no longer to be part of the personality of His resurrected self?
What do you think?
We are now getting very close to the time of the Passion and Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Intense emotions saturate every moment of the biblical accounts of all of that. These emotions reveal, and explain, and teach. Does our religious propriety allow us to let all of those emotions be there, and in Jesus, and in us? What is Jesus feeling at each moment or change of scene? What emotion, each time, is it exactly? Could a specific mode of “anger and agitation” have really helped Jesus, helping Him to face and to sustain Himself through all of this? Was this the same emotional pattern that we see Jesus feeling here, in our passage from John 11:32-33 and 38, as He absorbed the death of his close friend Lazarus, and faced Death itself, whose dominion His Father would destroy soon enough through His beloved Son?
Wondering about whether emotions continue in the personality of the resurrected Christ – only certain ones, but not others? – is a way of us paying closer attention to the full range of emotions that Jesus is shown as having, and wondering about them.
Let us mindfully, and with confidence and energy, live together this fifth week of Lent that is given us to live.
Ganz #5 – Meditation – Troubled (Week 5)
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 261. This is not a cop-out. Rather, this definition correctly acknowledges that even if God told us how the resurrection worked, and about the precise relation between our “glorified” body and our “earthly” body, we simply could not understand. We must experience it first, before we can hope for an insight into its nature.
 The Oxford English Dictionary defines propriety: “Appropriateness to circumstances or conditions; suitability, aptness, fitness; conformity with what is required by a rule, principle, etc.; rightness, correctness, accuracy.”
 Just to be clear here. I am not talking about a distortion of the truth of Jesus, but only about an evangelist leaving out certain aspects of Jesus that he judged less relevant, or felt to be inappropriate to share with others. There is absolutely no doubt for us who revere the Scriptures that the portrait of Jesus given us in the Gospels, composed by divinely-inspired human beings, is sufficient for us to be led into a profound and true personal knowledge of Jesus, of His Father, and of the Holy Spirit. Recall what John the Evangelist says in the closing lines of his Gospel – “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are many other things that Jesus did….” (John 21:24-25)
 Andrew T. Lincoln, The Gospel according to Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 2005), 314. This learned commentary by Lincoln is one of the best that I have encountered: its scholarship; its fairness in considering other points of view; in its spiritual penetration. Notice how the translators of other famous and respected current translations of this Gospel show a tendency to “tidy up” Jesus emotions in this verse: “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (NRSV); “he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed” (NET); “Then Jesus … was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled within himself” (LEB); “When Jesus … he became perturbed and deeply troubled” (NABRE). All of these avoid the use of the perfectly good word anger and substitute words that seem more according to propriety. Lying behind this, of course, is our squeamishness about the reality of anger, and about discovering that the God-Man can and did get angry.
 It is my judgement that many, if not all, of the hymns given us to sing in the Sacramental rituals of the Catholic Church are terribly “soft” in the presentation of the Father’s or Jesus’ personality, making the Father and Jesus appear insipid (lit. “lacking salt”). They fail to portray some larger grasp of the sheer vigor and breadth of personality of the divine Persons. What have we lost of “the whole Christ” that the following famous 4th century hymn has kept? “Let all mortal flesh keep silent / and with fear and trembling stand / ponder nothing earthly minded….”
 Lewis, C.S. (2008-10-29). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia, Chapter 8 (pp. 79-80). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
 See how the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and properly, labors to express something of a “glorious Mystery”, when it remarks at  – “How? Christ is raised in His own body: ‘See my hands and feet, that it is I myself’ (Luke 24:39), but He did not return to an earthly life.” Yet, we know the resurrected Jesus did “stay” with His disciples for forty days after His resurrection and before he was taken up into Heaven. It is a great Mystery how this works.