Our College Chaplain, Fr Gregory, has offered us this reflection during this Lenten period to help us prepare ourselves for Easter. Although Masses are suspended, our faith continues to live on as we care for one another.
Director of Identity
For the Jewish authorities, the raising of Lazarus was the last straw. Having waited, Jesus had not come to cure a sick man (not a totally unusual act in Israel), but to raise a dead man – a much more dramatic and provocative act that cannot go unchallenged. Christ puts his life on the line to save Lazarus. They now press for the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus is undermining their authority in the religious sphere, and risking inciting of the Roman overlords. And it seems that Jesus knew that his actions would bring about such consequences. But let’s take one step back first.
Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha and Mary and yet he waits where he is upon hearing news of Lazarus’ illness. (This is not because he feared the consequences of the Jewish authorities.) However, his delay does give voice to the universal cry of grief that both Martha and Mary express: “Lord, if you had only been here my brother would not have died” (V 21; 32). ‘There is the numbing sense of the absence of God’ – as Fr Brendan Byrne SJ rightly calls it. This is really the question we want answered by God: Where are you in our grief? Why do you remain impotent in the face of death and suffering?
The answer Jesus gives Martha is to change her future oriented “resurrection on the last day”, to a present reality, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus is here in our present and not just waiting for us in the future. Jesus shares in our grief – “Jesus felt great distress with a sigh that came straight from the heart”; “Jesus wept”; “Still signing, Jesus reached the tomb”. Jesus never promised to take away physical death, or suffering in our lives – Jesus lived through both himself. His promise is to remain with us, to share in the complex emotional journey of grief and pain. Sometimes that is all that love can offer; but it is offered in divine abundance!
This is the perfect entry into Passion week, and the perfect entry into our own isolation during COVID-19: Emmanuel – God is with us.
Fr Gregory Jacobs SJ