Sunday, March 09, 2008
At a Pontifical university in Rome where seminarians, priests and laity study there was a popular professor of philosophy for almost thirty years, but he was also a very difficult professor. He never missed a lecture himself, never relaxed the schedule, and never gave his students free or half days, not even on special festivities or right before vacations.
One day he came into class, put his books on the table, smiled, and announced: "Today we will not have class." The students were shocked. One raised his hand and asked, "Why not, Father?" The priest answered, "Today I want to celebrate, because during my morning meditation, for the first time in thirty-five years, I felt the presence of God." For almost forty years he was faithful to his daily prayer commitment without experiencing any consolation.
Last Sunday and this particular Sunday we are focusing on the miracles that Jesus performed. Now of course on the surface of these two miracles they just seem to be physical healings but as we know that these becoming teachings moments for Jesus. Here we see an incident of where Lazarus is raised from the dead but it goes beyond that. Even though the resurrection of Lazarus is an incredible miracle but in itself it will not affect humanity as the resurrection of Jesus does.
Jesus makes the promise to Martha and to those that believe in him that whoever “lives and believes in me will never die.” The amazing fact of the paschal mystery that we celebrate (the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord) is that we share it in this eternal life. It’s fullness will only be revealed to us after we have parted from this Earth.
We readily see the dying in our everyday lives—pain, sickness, suffering, death sinfulness, self-empting, discipline, giving up our wills. The Gospel we hear this evening/morning gives us a challenge to see and believe the grace of new life—glory, joy, peace, forgiveness, mercy, trust, and kindness.
In the earlier story of the professor he wasn’t able to really see or experience this resurrection, this new life. Yes, he was a man of prayer but it was dry and when he experienced new life of joy, peace, forgiveness, mercy, trust and kindness then he radiated that new life onto others such as his students who experienced him in a different light.
To say that God's Providence includes tragedies does not turn tragedies into comedies. Lazarus being raised from the dead didn't erase the experience of pain and loss that Martha and Mary went through during his sickness and after his death .Jesus rising from the dead on Easter Sunday didn't erase the indescribable pain and sorrow of Good Friday. Just so, our sufferings and struggles really are sufferings and struggles. And we must never think that our faith in Jesus will make them go away. We will always have to suffer and struggle in this life. But Jesus has given purpose to our sufferings and struggles. We know that he allows them for a reason, just as a good coach pushes his players beyond their comfort zone, no matter how much they complain. When we accept Christ's cross in our lives, even through our tears, we grow in wisdom and spiritual maturity - just like Martha in today's Gospel passage. Having purpose in our suffering also makes it possible for us to have peace in our sufferings.
Christ has proven that he will bring great things out of the greatest tragedies. And so, when storms of evil rock our boats, even while we struggle to keep afloat, in our hearts we can be at peace. Jesus wants us to have confidence in him, to trust him no matter what. Today, let's grant him his wish. In a few moments we will pray the Creed. When we do, let's pray it from the heart, expressing our unlimited confidence in Christ the Lord. And when he comes to us in the Eucharist today, let's ask him to strengthen all hearts that are still seeking purpose in their sufferings. “With the Lord there is mercy and redemption.”