News from Poland rarely appears in the British media. That’s actually something good, because it means Poland has politically and socially become a predictable and stable country. So, when exactly a year ago the news from Poland burst into the world’s media it had to be something really serious. And it was. Poland’s president died along with another 94 VIPs in a plane crash – something like this had never happen before in modern history. It obviously was a national tragedy, but as one widow said in a documentary, it was mainly a personal disaster for her, who lost her husband, and for her children, who lost their father.
Something peculiar has happened with us in the recent decades. Thanks to the media we can get the newest information from around the world almost instantly; we can watch and listen to live news about disastrous events – quite often while having our lunch or dinner. We feel a deep sympathy for the victims; we open our wallets and chequebooks to give aid. But those victims are somehow remote, having no real impact on our daily routines. Recently I was travelling to visit one place, but I had to turn back in the middle of the route because of a car accident ahead. What did I feel? Irritation – I’m not proud of it, but am I not human? So, we have a casual attitude towards death unless it touches us more directly.
Martha’s words in today’s gospel are similar to what we might say if we have to face such a disaster: ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died’. These words are echoed in the innumerable questions raised by people missing their loved ones, who passed away in more or less unexpected circumstances. Usually death comes too soon and too suddenly. I have an overwhelming impression that nowadays death seems to be something less terrifying than long lasting suffering. Quick death appears to be an inevitable, but acceptable final solution. The real problem for sufferers is a deep personal feeling of being a burden for the family. Accustomed to personal independence we find it hard to accept being dependent on others.
In the gospel Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. Personally I’ve been moved by his words: ‘Unbind him, let him go free’. I see them as a challenging assignment. It concerns us ourselves as much as the people around us, because only a free person can freely serve others. Lazarus from the gospel eventually died again and met his creator. And however scary it might be, we all die sooner or later. But when we die will we be certain that we have really lived our lives?