God is not indifferent to suffering; in his loving mercy, he sent Jesus to bring healing and consolation to our broken world, which often seems so far from him.
We usually think of the three Gospel episodes – the woman at the well, the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus – in terms of their spiritual significance for our lives. The current health crisis puts us in touch with the fact that Jesus was dealing with very real human distress, confusion and fear.
Jesus was deeply troubled by Mary and Martha’s grief, even though he knew he would revive Lazarus. Their pain was real, and Jesus was moved by it. It was the same throughout his ministry. Meeting people in pain or despair, Jesus showed the face of God as one filled with great compassion and love for his people. Even when it was inconvenient or didn’t fit his timing, Jesus would stop and heal those who were suffering.
This portrayal of God’s compassionate interest in the lives of his people holds for our time as well. The evil our world suffers often is a result of human choices, of our action or inaction; it is not a sign of God’s indifference. God calls the whole world to experience his love, to know freedom from fear, to be alive.
Jesus told the onlookers to unbind Lazarus and set him free. This raising of Lazarus was the work of God, yet people were called upon to do the practical part. God works in us for our salvation, but we have to respond, both in our own hearts and to our neighbour. Admitting our need for God’s mercy in our lives, we let it in. Sharing that mercy with others, we allow it to transform us. Coming to new life in Christ, free of fear and healed of sin, is a process of the individual heart that begins in and is aided by the community of believers.
Have you ever helped ‘unbind’ someone? Or did others ever help ‘unbind’ you? Today, this ‘helping’ involves the sacrifices and inconveniences we experience as we ‘stay home’ for the sake of one another.
May Christ come into our hearts, free us from fear and keep us confident of his constant love.
The Crisis Continues
Mary and Martha were devastated by the death of their brother Lazarus, but they still trusted in the Lord.
Pope Francis comments that in this crisis, many people will be affected seriously by anxiety. Fear, confusion and a sense of having no control can be paralyzing. We all experience some level of anxiety, we need to recognize it and to practice some of the many suggestions of how to deal with it. In addition to the most common recommendations, I propose two. First, list for yourself the things – common, ordinary, everyday things we usually take for granted – that are going well and thank the Lord for them. This can help re-set our perspective of reality.
Pray for Others
Second, pray for health care and personal support workers, first responders, retail clerks and others who must continue to deal face-to-face with others and for people who are dealing with serious medical conditions in the family. Ask the Lord to protect and strengthen their physical and emotional well-being. Your prayer is a gift of love connected to the love of God, and it is powerful. This attention to others helps put aside our own anxiety. If you are one of these people, be sure to pray. And pray that the Lord will hasten the end of this crisis.
There are in circulation various simple, quick-fix suggestions for use or for sale. Just remember that if any of these ‘cures’ or ‘defenses’ actually worked, we would not be in the present state of emergency. The only ‘home remedy’ that could be helpful is: 1. wash your hands 2. stay apart 3. stay at home. Be prudent.
Most of us are doing things to continue our lives past this crisis. In the meantime, stay connected. Isolation is difficult, so reach out regularly, if briefly.
The Gospel reminds us that God is with us, even in dark times and will overcome all that works against us. While we are apart from you, Fr. Charles, Fr. Chris and I continue to pray for you. May the Lord replace our anxiety with prudence, grant us strength and lead us to overcome this crisis quickly and safely.