Pope Francis has penned an introduction to the Italian version of a new book by Jesuit Father James Martin on the topic of Jesus’ healing of Lazarus, in which the pope wrote that Martin’s book serves as a reminder that “Jesus isn’t afraid of our death, or our sin.”

In the March 11 introduction, released by Vatican News, Pope Francis said Jesus’ raising from the dead of his friend Lazarus, which is recounted in the Gospel of John, shows that “Jesus isn’t scared of coming close to sinners — to any sinner, even the most brazen and undaunted.”

‘[Jesus] has one single preoccupation: that no one goes missing, that none are deprived of the possibility of feeling the loving embrace of his Father,” Pope Francis wrote. 

Pope Francis has on several occasions received the controversial Jesuit priest in private audiences at the Vatican and has expressed support for Martin’s ministry to those identifying as LGBT, urging him to “continue this way.” Martin’s most recent book, released in the U.S. in September 2023, is titled “Come Forth: The Raising of Lazarus and the Promise of Jesus’ Greatest Miracle.” 

Describing Martin as “the author of many other books that I know and appreciate,” Pope Francis said: “Father James has the perspective of a person who has fallen in love with the Word of God.”

“As I read the careful arguments and exegeses of the biblical scholars he cites, it made me wonder how often we manage to approach Scripture with the ‘hunger’ of a person who knows that that word really is the Word of God,” the pope wrote. 

“The fact that God ‘speaks’ should give us a little jolt each and every day. The Bible truly is the nourishment we need to handle our lives. It’s the ‘love letter’ that God has sent — since long ago — to men and women living in every time and place.”

Engaging with the Bible daily, the pope wrote, helps “us grasp the extent to which Scripture is a living body, an open book, a vibrant witness to a God that is not dead and buried on the dusty shelves of history.”

The Christian faith, Francis wrote, is a comingling of “the divine and the human — never one without the other,” thanks to the incarnation of Jesus as a man. Jesus, who described himself as “the resurrection and the life,” made eternal life possible even for sinners. 

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“All of us, then, are Lazarus. Rooting himself firmly in the Ignatian tradition, Father Martin brings us directly into the story of this friend of Jesus. We’re his friends, too — ’dead’ as we sometimes are on account of our sins, our failings and infidelities, the despondency that discourages us and crushes our spirits. Jesus is hardly afraid to get close to us — even when we ‘reek’ like a dead body that’s been buried for three days,” the pope wrote. 

“No, Jesus isn’t afraid of our death, or our sin. He waits just outside the closed door of our hearts, that door that only opens from within, that we lock with a double bolt whenever we think God could never forgive us.”

Pope Francis noted the insight that “our lives all point toward the infinite … We are made for eternity.”

“Of course, the dead rise, but how true it is to recall that we the living never die! Yes, death does come, not just for us, but for our families and those dear to us — for everyone, really. ​​We see so much death all around, unjust and painful death, death caused by war, by violence, by Cain’s abuse of power toward Abel. But we men and women are destined for eternity. All of us are,” he wrote. 

Critics have over the years accused Martin of rejecting Catholic teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual acts, but he has insisted that he does not reject the teaching of the Church. Last winter, after the Vatican issued the declaration Fiducia Supplicans, which opened the door for priests to pastorally bless same-sex couples, Martin said on social media: “Along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.” 

Pope Francis last year chose Martin to be one of the 364 bishops, priests, religious, and laypeople who voted in the Synod on Synodality in October 2023.