[A short story for you today. As it’s Passion Sunday, on which Catholics read from the Gospel of John about Jesus’s final miracle before He went to Jerusalem, I thought a related tale might be appropriate. – FWP.
The last of his perceptions dimmed and winked out. He found himself without sensation of any sort, not even that of his own weight. Though his eyes were open, they saw nothing. His ears registered no slightest sound. His senses of smell, taste, and touch were equally idle. It gave him a eerie sense of displacement, as if he were floating in an ocean that had no water. Yet not even the gentle motions of such a body, stirred by sun, wind, and tide, could he feel.
But he remained aware. The thought stream that had bedeviled him continued unbroken.
What place is this?
Am I not to face judgment?
He could still detect the passage of time. What meaning has time, in the complete absence of sensations, material things, and the events that accompany them? How would one measure it?
Yet he had not ended. He persisted. The sequence of his thoughts continued, unbroken by death.
Therefore there is more.
I will wait. What else I can do, after all?
A soundless reply, words without volume or timbre, arrived in his consciousness.
It startled him, jolted him into a new plane of consciousness.
Is it You, my God?
Again the reply was undeniable, though it transcended perception.
I am what I am.
It stilled him, turned his thoughts back upon themselves.
To persist is to have significance. I have a destiny to fulfill. Yet afloat in this void, I have no way to seek it out or embark upon it. What, then?
The reply was the same.
He did so.
I cannot act. Yet I persist. Therefore, I am to be acted upon. But how?
No answer came to him.
Could this be punishment for my sins? Helplessness as the penalty for squandering my life? But did I truly squander it? I worked. I prayed. I did my best for my loved ones. Surely those were not sins.
Perhaps I do not understand sin.
He examined the course of his life, straining to remember its details down to the smallest minutiae. He found a few peccadillos, but nothing against the Commandments or what they implied. He slowly became convinced that, in that timeless place where his thoughts continued to flow, he did indeed await a destiny yet to be fulfilled…but that his future lay in the hands of another.
I am to be used.
The idea might have brought resentment, but it did not.
If I can be used, then despite my death I have worth. It will not be my own deeds that fulfill that destiny, but the deeds of another.
With that thought there came a mighty roaring. Insubstantial forces seized and held him. Power unfathomed by men had massed around him and taken him up for use. His ponderings ceased and were replaced by an ecstatic peace.
Let all be as it must be.
He sensed rather than heard the words of his liberation spoken.
LAZARUS, COME FORTH!
And it was so.
“Did you sleep, brother?” Martha said.
He shook his head. “I rested, but I was aware. How long…?”
Her face spasmed. “Four days.”
“It did not seem so.”
“We feared that he might fail,” she said. “That you would be lost to us.”
He shook his head. “He has never failed, sister.”
“Did you…expect it?”
“Not at all. I knew only that…something awaited. That I had an unfulfilled destiny, but that it was not mine to initiate it.” He smiled. “I realized that I would be used for a task of which I was not capable.”
“And it was so,” Martha said. “Many came to believe today. Many who had been skeptical even knowing of his other deeds.”
Lazarus nodded. “I among them.” His heart filled afresh with joy and peace. “What an honor, to be used thus!”
Martha bowed her head.
Copyright © 2023 Francis W. Porretto. All rights reserved worldwide.
May God bless and keep you all.