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God With Us

On the Gospel of John 11:1-45

5th Sunday of Lent

This week’s Gospel presents us with a description of Jesus as he raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. It is in and through this gospel that we are presented with the person of Jesus who is both fully divine and fully human. We first come to realize that Jesus experiences the pain and anguish of the loss of a close friend, where we are told that he wept for his dead friend. In this expression of great feelings of sadness, Jesus shows us that he is indeed fully human and can empathize with the difficulties that we face in life. It is essential, however, that, in reflecting on the response of Jesus to the death of Lazarus, we come to a realization that Jesus is also fully divine. This is made very clear by the fact that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, something which a mere human being cannot do. In our attempt to deepen our understanding of who Jesus Christ is, we sometimes go overboard in emphasizing his humanity, while forgetting that he is also fully divine.

In reflecting upon the suffering of Christ, we come to realize that Jesus suffers with us in our difficulties. So often, it is asked whether God really exists when so much evil is allowed to happen in the world. Though it would be impossible to adequately deal with the problem of evil in this short reflection, we can say that though pain and suffering do occur in the world, Jesus is always present with those who suffer. It is interesting that both Martha and Mary insist that, had Jesus been present at the time of Lazarus’ death, Lazarus would not have died. How often do we get annoyed with God when we think that he is not present to help us through a difficult situation. God, however, allows everything to happen for a reason and we need to try our best to trust him and know that he always wants what is best for us. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. It is only when one walks through such a terrible place that one can get some small sense of real evil and suffering in the world. As I walked through what remains of the camp, I could not help feeling a very strong sense of the suffering of Christ present in that place. It was as if, in the midst of all the pain, God was truly suffering with his people. As I walked through the camp, I also reflected on the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who, in the midst of such great evil, allowed the compassion of God to flow through his very being, as he ministered to those held in bondage. Let us always remember that in our suffering and pain, God never abandons us.

A final point about the passage can be exposed though a reflection on a comment of Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, when Thomas says, “let us go too, and die with him (Jesus).” St. Thomas makes this comment after the disciples had questioned whether it would be prudent for Jesus to return to Judea where some of the Jews had threatened to stone him. In reflecting on this statement of St. Thomas, we cannot help but think forward of the doubt which Thomas showed in not believing that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, until he (Thomas) saw Jesus’ wounds. How often do we make great statements of faith, yet when it comes down to the crunch, so to speak, our faith wavers. We must always strive to practice the faith that we proclaim to believe in, so that our actions reflect the strength of our conviction.

In speaking of conviction, I would like to conclude this reflection by encouraging all to strive toward a deeper encounter with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus unbound Lazarus and freed him from death, he wants to free us, as well, from the bonds of sin, which prevent us from attaining true fulfillment. It is only through an encounter with Christ that we can gain that freedom which we so desire.

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