By Deacon John De Gano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside
One of Charles M. Schulz’ re-occurring themes in the comic strip Peanuts is Charlie Brown’s unsuccessful attempt to get his kite to fly. His desire and sheer determination were never a match against the dreaded ‘kite-eating tree.’ Often, the final panel showed a smiling tree and a defeated Charlie Brown trussed up head to foot in the very string with which he had hoped to use to see his beloved kite soar.
Like many of us, Charlie Brown remains undaunted by this setback. He will get another kite and, unfortunately, repeat the same mistakes all over again. And then get another. And another.
Are we like that, too? Are we so headstrong that we refuse to change our ways? Even when conventional wisdom would tell us to fly our ‘kite’ a few blocks over where there are no obstructions or ‘kite-eating trees’ to thwart our endeavors, do we listen? To God? Others?
What is it that binds us from being open to God and to the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge to act in our own best spiritual interests? What prevents our spirits from soaring?
In John’s gospel account of the raising of Lazarus, he gives us a whole slew of reasons why Lazarus has been bound ‘head to toe’ in the grave. So many, in fact, that everyone figured Lazarus wasn’t going anywhere!
After all, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. His body had been wrapped in a burial cloth and hands and feet tied (as per custom). A stone had been placed over the opening to the tomb and professional wailers had been called to the home to grieve with Martha and Mary at the loss of their brother.
However, when Jesus comes, he summarily rejects these ‘binds’ and does what no one has ever done before. He brings Lazarus back to life!
Unbelief must turn to belief. Lazarus’ physical binds are removed and he is free to walk about!
While this event is, in and of itself, clearly astounding, having a living breathing Lazarus in town provided irrefutable evidence that Jesus could not be a charlatan or magician. No slight of hand could disguise what everyone now was witnessing.
Such a display of awesome power rocked the world of the Jewish leaders. A sinner was doing the work of God! What would be next: The destruction of the temple?
In an act of desperation, the Pharisees and Sadducees will conspire together to kill both Jesus and Lazarus in order to hide the miracle! Like the ominous ‘kite-eating’ tree, they must protect their traditions. Destroy the evidence. Bind the spirit yearning to be free.
While the Scriptures are silent on the fate of Lazarus, we know that Jesus will be arrested and raised up on the cross. He will die. However, by his own death and resurrection he will conquer the tree. He will soar free.
As we celebrate the Easter Season and beyond, let us have the confidence of a Charlie Brown, trusting our God to lift our spiritual kites and conquer our ‘soul-eating’ trees so that we bind (and are bound) no more.