As I read the Gospel appointed for this upcoming Sunday, I happened to recall a news story from Sunday night. I called out to my wife, asking if she remembered the name of the young girl who died of cancer. The story got my attention and had a lasting effect. My wife answered, “Gabriella Miller,” and wondered what prompted my need to know. I said, “I don’t know, but something I read this morning reminded me of that young girl.” That something I read was John’s (John 11:1-45) account of the story of Lazarus. Is there any more familiar story to Christians than that of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? In fact, the story is so well-known that “Lazarus” has become a well-known metaphor for revival and resurrection beyond the realm of religion.
So why did I connect the Lazarus story to this child, who died last fall at the age of 10? Gabriella was diagnosed with brain cancer in November of 2012 but rather than retreat to her illness and the discomfort of all the interventions designed to reverse or halt her condition, she never lost hope. Instead, she dedicated her young, fragile life to raising awareness for cancer in children who like her, are suffering and who unlike her, have no voice and quietly retreat to waiting. She became a force for action, raising funds to support research and seeing to the “comfort” and wishes of terminally ill youngsters. To that end she raised millions of dollars and vicariously saw to the aid and comfort of hundreds of afflicted children.
The story of Lazarus shares much in common with the woman at the well and the blind man. The faith of Martha and Mary and the Samaritan woman’s belief that Jesus was the Messiah, instilled a spark of faith in all those around them. They stepped out of their comfort zones despite the risk of being criticized if not condemned.
In many ways Gabriella is like the woman at the well. She defied her illness as the Samaritan defied convention. Gabriella did not step back in a silence, reserved for the terminally ill, and was not willing to submit to her illness as she called for action… as we stand by wringing our hands in sympathy…and go on about our lives. No, the story of Lazarus doesn’t lead us to believe that God would save Gabriella from death, or raise her from the dead; after all, even Lazarus would eventually succumb to physical death. But the story makes us realize that God through Gabriella resurrects us and brings our faith to life as we see the love of God through the eyes of this 10 year old child.