Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Life is Death if no Perception of God
The scribes and Pharisees took counsel with the high priest to slay Lazarus; for many renounced their traditions and believed in the word of Jesus, because the miracle of Lazarus was a great one, seeing that Lazarus had conversation with men, and ate and drank. But because he was powerful, having a following in Jerusalem, and possessing with his sister Magdala and Bethany, they knew not what to do.
Jesus entered into Bethany, into the house of Lazarus, and Martha, with Mary, ministered to him. *Mary, sitting one day at the feet of Jesus, was listening to his words, whereupon Martha said to Jesus: 'Lord, see you not that my sister takes no care for you, and provides not that which you must eat and your disciples?' Jesus answered: 'Martha, Martha, do you take thought for that which you should do; for Mary has chosen a part which shall not be taken away from her for ever.
Jesus, sitting at table with a great multitude that believed in him, spoke, saying: 'Brethren, I have but little time to remain with you, for the time is at hand that I must depart from the world. Wherefore I bring to your mind the words of God spoken to Ezekiel ;the prophet, saying: "As I, your God, live eternally, the soul that sins, it shall die, but if the sinner shall repent he shall not die but live." Wherefore the present death is not death, but rather the end of a long death: even as the body when separated from the sense in a swoon, though it have the soul within it, has no other advantage over the dead and buried save this, that the buried [body] awaits God to raise it again, but the unconscious waits for the sense to return. Behold, then, the present life that it is death, through having no perception of God.
'They that shall believe in me shall not die eternally, for through my word they shall perceive God within them, and therefore shall work out their salvation. What is death but an act which nature does by commandment of God? As it would be if one held a bird tied, and held the cord in his hand; when the head wills the bird to fly away, what does it? Assuredly it commands naturally the hand to open; and so straightway the bird flies away. "Our soul," as says the prophet David, "is as a sparrow freed from the snare of the fowler," when man abides under the protection of God. And our life is like a cord whereby nature holds the soul bound to the body and the sense of man. When therefore God wills, and commands nature to open, the life is broken and the soul escapes in the hands of the angels whom God has ordained to receive souls.
Let not, then, friends weep when their friend is dead; for our God has so willed. But let him weep without ceasing when he sins, for [so] the soul dies, seeing it separates itself from God, the true Life. If the body is horrible without its union with the soul, much more frightful is the soul without union with God, who with his grace and mercy beautifies and quickens it.' And having said this Jesus gave thanks to God; whereupon Lazarus said: 'Lord, this house belongs to God my creator, with all that he has given into my keeping, for the service of the poor. Wherefore, since you are poor, and have a great number of disciples, come you to dwell here when you please, and as much as you please, for the servant of God will minister to you as much as shall be needful, for love of God.'
Jesus rejoiced when he heard this, and said: 'See now how good a thing it is to die! Lazarus has died once only, and has learned such doctrine as is not known to the wise men in the world that have grown old among books! Would to God that every man might die once only and return to the world, like Lazarus;, in order that men might learn to live.' John answered: 'O master, is it permitted to me to speak a word?'
'Speak a thousand,' answered Jesus, 'for just as a man is bound to dispense his goods in the service of God, so also is he bound to dispense doctrine: and so much the more is he bound [so to do) inasmuch as the world has power to raise up a soul to penitence, whereas goods cannot bring back life to the dead. Wherefore he is a murderer who has power to help a poor man and when he helps him not the poor man dies of hunger; but a more grievous murderer is he who could by the word of God convert the sinner to penitence, and converts him not, but stands, as says God, "like a dumb dog." Against such says God: "The soul of the sinner that shall perish because you have hidden my word, I will require it at your hands, O unfaithful servant."
In what condition, then, are now the scribes and Pharisees who have the key and will not enter, no hinder them who would fain enter, into eternal life? 'You ask me, O John;, permission to speak one word, having listened to an hundred thousand words of mine. Truly I say to you, I am bound to listen to you ten times for every one that you have listened to me. And he who will not listen to another, every time that he shall speak he shall sin; seeing that we ought to do to others that which we desire for ourselves, and not do to others that which we do not desire to receive.' Then said John: 'O master, why has not God granted this to men, that they should die once and return as Lazarus has done, in order that they might learn to know themselves and their creator?'
Jesus answered: 'Tell me, John; there was an householder who gave a perfect axe to one of his servants in order that he might cut down the wood which obstructed the view of his house. But the labourer forgot the axe, and said: "If the master would give me an old axe I should easily cut down the wood." Tell me, John, what said the master? Assuredly he was wroth, and took the old axe and struck him on the head, saying: Fool and knave! I gave you an axe wherewith you might cut down the wood without toil, and seek you this axe, wherewith one must work with great toil, and all that is cut is wasted and good for nought? I desire you to cut down the wood in such wise that your work shall be good." Is this true?'
John answered: 'It is most true.' [Then Jesus said: ] 'As I live eternally,' said God, 'I have given a good axe to every man, which is the sight of the burial of one dead. Whoso wield well this axe remove the wood of sin from their heart without pain; wherefore they receive my grace and mercy; giving them merit of eternal life for their good works. But he who forgets that he is mortal, though time after time he see others die, and says. "If I should see the other life, I would do good works," my fury shall be upon him, and I will so smite him with death that he shall never more receive any good.' 'O John;,' said Jesus, 'how great is the advantage of him who from the fall of others learns to stand on his feet!'
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