From Death to Life
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
"Raise the dead to life" (Matthew 10:8)
As related in the Gospels, Jesus exercised everywhere the ordinary ministry of preaching and of teaching, of healing and of casting out devils, and occasionally the extraordinary ministry of controlling the forces of nature and of raising the dead to life (Lk 7: 18 -23). This last one culminated with his own resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter, and continues with his raising the dead to life on the last day, which we recall each year on 2nd November, All Souls Day, but is illustrated by the three Gospel accounts of Jesus raising to life a girl child, a youth and a man, in anticipation of their final definite resurrection into eternal life, for "anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die" (Jn 11:25).
But what is even more remarkable is that Jesus called together his twelve disciples and instructed them, "As you go … cure the sick, raise the dead to life, heal the lepers, and cast out demons" (Mt 10 1-8). Christ passed on this same ministry, of even raising the dead to life, to his Apostles and so to the whole Church. It is not without reason that the evangelists selected three such incidents from three different stages of one's life and in three different family situations for three different purposes.
A synagogue official came up to Jesus pleading with him to come and lay his hands on his daughter and save her life, for she was desperately ill. Unfortunately there was an unforeseen delay on the way, caused by a woman who had a haemorrhage, and in the meantime news came from the official's house that his daughter was dead. Jesus' reaction even in such grim situations was the usual one: "Don't worry; just have faith." On entering the house one look was sufficient for him to declare to all, "The child is not dead, only asleep." And he took her by the hand and said, "Little girl, get up." And she got up at once (Mk 5:21-24,35-43).
I was reminded of the above Gospel narrative, when I heard that a little boy, whom the mother had conceived after many years and whom I had admitted to the KG class in my school, just had fever and died. I felt at once that the child would have got well if someone had prayed over him. The parents took his death very badly and even had his body exhumed to justify their blaming the doctors for their negligence. When I returned to Mumbai the parents came to see me, presumably to share their grief. But least did I expect to be now told that they had the body of their son exhumed only because they both had a dream in which they saw me coming to the grave and raising their son to life. And when they realized that their son was still a corpse they were doubly devastated. They therefore asked me whether what God had shown them in the dream was true or not, and if true, they now wanted me to come to the grave and raise their son to life. I replied that the Lord always speaks the truth with love but we need to interpret correctly its true meaning.
I went along with them to the grave, somewhat reluctantly but peacefully, and made a prayer thanking their Father God for having taken their beloved and only son to be with him and I asked Him to give them the assurance that he had in his own mysterious way really answered their prayer, that the boy though seemingly dead was very much alive, and was much closer to his parents than ever before. To my astonishment they thanked me profusely for this prayer through which God had truly spoken to them bringing peace into their broken hearts. I met them a year later, to my surprise with a babe in their arms, and said that I was happy that they had adopted a child, an answer to prayer. The father corrected me and said, "This is our own child, for my wife conceived soon after in answer to our prayer at the grave of our dead son, who in a way has come back to us." I met them some years later. Now they have had four children, all their own, for the Lord had answered their prayer fourfold.
As Jesus was approaching the gate of the town of Nain, people were carrying out for burial the body of a widow's only son. When the Lord saw the woman, he felt sorry for her and said, "Don't cry." Then he went up to the bier, touched it and said, "Young man, get up!" The young man sat up, and Jesus gave him back to his mother" (Lk 7:11-15).
At a retreat that we were giving at the Pastoral Centre, in Patna, North India, in the last week of December, a nun came to see me on the very first day with her problems already all written down methodically. There was so much suffering in and so many occult influences on her family, that I felt the need to meet her every day, to pray successively for each family member in bondage. The following year we were again giving a retreat at the same Pastoral Centre and the same Sister had come there again to meet me. She told me that after the previous retreat she had gone for her home visit in her remote tribal village in that state. There she received the sad news that her eldest brother had become sick suddenly the very day she had joined that previous retreat, and had died in spite of all the treatment at the mission hospital.
The second brother whom she visited in another adjoining village had a similar story to tell her but with a completely different ending. He too became suddenly sick immediately after the funeral of the eldest brother and was taken to the mission hospital. He died there after a day or two and his body was kept there for another day. On the funeral day as the body was being lowered into the grave, his wife noticed a slight movement in his little finger and she began to shout out, "Don't bury my husband. He's not dead." But as she was being pushed away by the large crowd of mourners, who thought she had gone mad, she saw over their shoulders her husband sitting up in the coffin. She now pushed them back towards the coffin and they too turned round and saw the same eerie sight. They all ran away with fright, beginning with the parish priest. I now asked the nun when did this happen; and she said on the 29th of December of the previous year at 3.00 pm, when we were both praying precisely for the deliverance of this particular brother from the spell that may have been cast upon him because of family enmity.
Jesus had received an urgent message from Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus had fallen sick. It was two days later that he told his disciples, "Our friend, Lazarus, is asleep, and I am going to wake him up." He then said in plain words, "Lazarus is dead." When Jesus came to their house, Martha said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus replied, "Your brother will live again." Martha admitted, "I know that he will be raised to life on the last day." Jesus explained, "Everyone who lives because of faith in me, will never really die." At the sight of Mary's tears Jesus was even more terribly upset, but when he came to the tomb he wept, so much did he love Lazarus." Then thanking God for answering his prayer, he cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" And the dead man came out still wrapped around with the burial cloths (Jn 11:1-44).
There was a family that was very much tormented by evil forces ever since the uncle had brought a gadi (witch doctor) to their family house and had some concoction prepared by him buried in and around their house for so-called protection and prosperity. He had now repented and changed somewhat but all of a sudden at midnight, 27th Nov. 97, while reading the Bible, he felt that someone had hit him with great force at the back of his head. He started rolling and screaming on the bed and began having severe headaches. The scan test showed massive hemorrhage in the brain with blood flowing fast everywhere. He was sent to a well-known hospital in Mumbai to undergo a risky operation, with the added danger of him coming out of the theatre paralyzed or in a coma.
The uncle was now very keen to make a good confession and receive Holy Communion, but the priests that were contacted were not immediately available. His niece, whom I knew very well, phoned me on Tuesday night and pleaded with me to come. Since I was just passing through Mumbai I could not make it. But I prayed for her uncle on the phone both that he would be able to make his confession and receive Holy Communion before the operation and that the operation itself would be successful and even perhaps not needed.
The operation time that was fixed for 10.00 am on Wednesday was for some unknown reason postponed to the afternoon, enabling the parish priest to come in the late morning and minister the two sacraments that he desired so much. The time of the operation had now come. His head was shaved, the green cloth was tied around his head, he was shifted from his bed to the stretcher, which was then wheeled into the operation theatre, and he was put on the operation table, with the nurses waiting patiently to help conduct the operation. The four top neurosurgeons came to the room, saw the patient, then stood at the entrance discussing the patient, and after almost an hour concluded that the operation was not needed even though the tests performed so far indicated otherwise.
They then went to the patient and said, "Good news, Mr. Rodrigues, the operation is cancelled." They said the same thing to the relatives waiting outside and added that they themselves did not know how they came to this conclusion. He was then shifted from the operation table to the stretcher and wheeled back to his bed. He was kept for 14 more days more on observation because the tests had been positive. But when the angiography was now taken the results were all negative. There was no pain and no blood clots. Ever after he became a great evangelist in Goa especially by sharing his testimony of being raised from death to life.
E-mail this article to a friend
Copyright © Fr. Rufus Pereira. All rights reserved.