Friday, April 4, 2014

April 6, 2014: 5th Sunday of Lent A

How do children understand about miracles of Jesus? At a children’s Sunday school class, one little boy began to talk about Lazarus. He said, "Yes, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead!" The teacher urged him to tell more.  The little boy continued, "Well, Jesus told them to open the tomb, and then He said, 'Lazarus, come out!' And it's a good thing he called Lazarus by name because there would have been a stampede of dead guys."

We find humor in that story, but how many times have we been at the side of deathbed or by the graveside of our loved ones recalling the story of Jesus calling forth Lazarus from the tomb? Perhaps we wished that our loved ones would come back to life like Lazarus. We see sickness and suffering in our families, in our communities, and around the world. Didn’t we find ourselves empathizing with the suffering families of Malaysian Airline 370 passengers or the Washington State mudslide victims?

One parishioner shared this experience from her father’s funeral. At the time when her dad died, she had just finished her chemo therapy where she lost all of her hair. A friend of hers approached her at the funeral and said, “You suffered so much already, and this must be unbearable. How you must wish that Jesus would bring your dad back just as he did with Lazarus.” The parishioner replied, “No. Then dad would have to suffer the dying process again.”

Recently in our community we had suffering and deaths which prompted some of us to doubt and perhaps even question our own faith. Sickness and suffering are personal. We feel broken inside. We struggle to understand the meaning and purpose of the pain and, at times, actually wrestle with our fear of death. When something bad happens to us or to a loved one, we can’t help thinking that if God really cared about us, if he really loved us, then he wouldn’t have allowed this thing to happen. We feel abandoned by God. However, faith is our great ally in facing death. It doesn’t mean we have all the answers, and it doesn’t dispense us from the painful work of grieving. But  faith does add a vital element to our grieving. That element is hope. We grieve as people who believe that death doesn’t have the last word. No matter what we suffer in this life, we must remember what our faith teaches us: suffering is not the end of life but the beginning of a spiritual awakening of the transforming power of God’s life and love within us.

‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ This is one of the greatest statements in the Gospel. It means that Jesus holds the key to life and death. Though he himself experienced the darkness of death, by rising from the dead in our mortal humanity, he broke the power of death forever. He entered the dark kingdom  of death, and emerged victorious. Thus he has become a pathfinder for us. He has caused a new and invincible morning to dawn on all who believe in him. Eternal life is not something that begins when we die, but begins the moment we hear the voice of Jesus and believe in him. Thus, even in the midst of the darkness of our life, we know that the rising sun is at quietly at work.

To become reconciled to death in a very great grace. A deeper and more human life results, as well as a
falling away of fear. Someone who visited an old man who was close to death shared this experience. He asked the old man, ‘Are you afraid of dying?’ ‘I’m not,’ the old man replied. ‘The Almighty God put a blanket around me coming into the world and I don’t remember being born. He’ll put another blanket around me going out of it, and I won’t remember dying but as little.’