7 Apr 2011

Lenten Reflections (No. 16) - Lord the one you love is sick

Picture the scene:  Lazarus, ill and fearful. His sisters desperately seeking to prolong his life and see him restored to good health. It’s late in the day and all their hope rests in Jesus, their friend Jesus who has healed and cured many others … So the sisters send word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (Jn 11:3).

There is a painful honesty in the simple request – no word wasted, just a sense of two sisters who are being stretched, emptied & poured out in the face of their brothers pain. There is a loss of formality, of careful-ness, in the face of death or fear. There is no time now for carefully crafted requests or explanations. The bare facts say it all.
In Japan, in Haiti, in Darfur, or in our own home town; we recognise the plea of desperate relatives .... Lord, the one you love is sick ... Jesus, the man I love is leaving ... Father, the child I love is suffering ... Jesus, I can’t find her ...  The bare facts say it all.
What bare facts can I place before God this day? What is my reality this day? Without explanation, formality or carefulness, how do I complete the sentence ‘Lord, ... ’. We place our reality alongside Lazarus, Mary & Martha’s. And with them, we wait.
If you had been here
Let us return to the Gospel story - The sisters have sent word and they wait, but it seems that Jesus does not come in time and death proves victorious.  Lazarus’ eyes are closed and his sisters begin to grieve their loss, until four days after Lazarus’ burial, Jesus arrives.
Mary and Martha probably did not know of Jesus’ conversations with his apostles, and probably didn’t take into account the danger Jesus life was in. They were simply consumed by their grief, waiting for their last hope to come to them. How must they have felt when he didn’t come at the time they expected? In waiting those four days, Mary and Martha’s faith in Jesus must have been stretched further than anyone thought possible.
How often have we waited on God, thinking ‘where are you?’, ‘why are you not here now when I need you’. Our faith too has been stretched. Our faith in relationships, in healing, in God. Are there situations, relationships, events that we feel are damaged or dead so that no one, not even God, could bring resurrection there?
Where do we find ourselves saying ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died’, ... ‘if you were good, we would not be suffering’, ... ‘if you loved me, you wouldn’t ask this of me’. Like Mary and Martha do we recognise Gods power, but sometimes feel Gods absence? Is God absent when we can’t feel Gods presence, or when events don’t unfold in a way we can understand? All the way from Galilee to Judea, Jesus was preparing himself for what he would do. Though we sometimes cannot feel Gods presence; God is with us. 
Take away the stone
And how was it then for Martha & Mary when word of his arrival finally came? Mary, the one who had sat at Jesus feet, stayed where she was. Martha, the busy worker, went out to meet him. It is given to Martha – the busy, argumentative one – to say first ‘Yes Lord, I believe’. 
How am I in times of despair and grief?  Can I hear Gods word spoken to me in my hour of need? No matter how we come to Jesus, he is here for us. If we listen, we too will hear the words of life.
For, in an exchange of searing depths, after all hope had vanished; Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth”.  Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, brought life and hope long after he was ‘supposed to’. Healing happens when we let Jesus into the dark tombs in our lives. When we weep with him and trust in him. When we take away the stone and allow Jesus to reveal the glory of God
What part of my life have I walled off? What memory, relationship, feeling is buried deep in stone with the sense that it is too late to heal it?
I bring it to God now and pray, ‘Father God, if you could raise Lazarus from the dead, then you can heal me. Bless me now that I might be open to your healing. Give me the courage to move away the stone, or to ask others for help to do that. Give me patience, as that which has been so hurtful emerges into the light of your love. Show me your will for my life and bless me and all with your hope, your grace and your mercy. For though I am hurt and scared, I know that nothing is impossible to God’.
Let us be brave like Lazarus, Mary & Martha. Let us allow God to breathe light into the dark spaces of our heart this Lent. So that when the stone is moved aside, we might answer this Easter with joy:  Lumen Christi – Deo gratius
‘Did I now tell you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God’ .... ‘Lazarus, come forth’
Noirin Lynch

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