First Reading: Ezk 37:12-14; Psalm: 130. R. v. 7b; Second Reading: Rm 8:8-11; Gospel: Jn 11:1-45
HEALING FROM THE PAST
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The gospel of today is replete with mixed feelings: anxiety, foreboding, sorrow, disappointment, hope, and joy. Lazarus’ sickness was obviously a serious one; the kind that had beaten treatment and medication. This explains why Mary and Martha sent for Jesus. Their choice of words as they pleaded with Jesus to hurry down suggested the fondness that existed between Jesus and Lazarus. They said, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” These were very affectionate and appealing words. Perhaps it was a way of reminding Jesus that Lazarus deserved some preferential attention. But sadly, Jesus delayed.
In the face of crisis and tragedy, friends and those who are fond of us are presumed to be among the first to reach out to us. So Mary and Martha expected Jesus to act accordingly. But to their surprise that never happened. One can imagine the crisis going on within them as their brother’s illness worsened while Jesus who often visited their home never showed up to save him from dying. Eventually, Lazarus died. And Jesus still had not come. Apparently they wondered in their sorrow, “Does the Lord not care anymore?” Lazarus was buried. And Jesus only showed up four days after.
Now that Jesus had finally come, and very late for that matter; Mary and Martha did not fail to express their feelings of disappointment. They both said similar thing to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This was an indirect way of registering their disappointment for Jesus’ belated response. Even someone among their sympathisers also said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
However, the words of Jesus to Martha became the turning point to this whole sad narrative. Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
These words of Jesus were appropriately addressed to Martha; a woman who was grieving over her past and regrettably. So Jesus’ words served as a mild rebuke to Martha not to wallow in her past and keep hurting but to look up and see that he the Lord holds the key to life. In other words, there was no need for that conditional statement “Lord, if you had been here;” because for Jesus, there is no difference between the past, the present and the future. For God is the Eternal Now. So, although our past may be devastating; God can change them instantly. For our past is not behind God but before God. And Jesus proved this by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Just like Mary and Martha, there may be some of us who are still regretting our pasts, grieving and hurting till this day. Because we felt that our regrettable pasts could have been prevented if certain things were done or avoided; or if we were proactive enough. This kind of regret can leave us perpetually sad. How can we be happy if we kept thinking, “My son wouldn’t have died if I had afforded his medication?” “If I wasn’t drunk that night I wouldn’t have knocked down that poor boy to death” “If I had listened to my husband and cancelled my journey on that fateful day, perhaps I wouldn’t have been involved in that car accident that has put me in a wheelchair.”
When we are hit by tragedy, we are often inclined to play the blame game. We can go on to blame ourselves or blame others as the cause of our misfortune. But much as reflection can open up our shortcomings, it does not require us to remain stagnated in our mistakes and wallowing in sadness. What Jesus asks of us today is to bring our sad pasts before him and trust that he can give us the joy that we have lost. Because sitting and playing the blame game has disastrous consequences and can never bring us healing but more pain.
Clara was a workingwoman. On this fateful day, she left for work leaving her two year old son in the custody of John her husband. John dozed off on the couch as their little son darted to the bathroom for water play. Sadly, the poor boy got drowned in the bathtub before his father noticed. Over every little squabble, Clara never ceased to remind John of how his negligence led to the death of their son. John had to live with this guilt, and at long last lost his life in a traffic collision due to misery and depression.
Sometimes we are the ones who exacerbate our pains instead of healing from them. No one can heal from a hurtful experience by dwelling on it and playing the blame game. It will only cause us more harm. Jesus is reminding us today that we can heal from our pasts if we stopped blaming ourselves and others and start believing in his ever healing presence. God is never late to help us. God is always on time.
We can leverage on the prophecy of Ezekiel in the first reading of today where God assured us that though our situations may be as worse as dead bones; but he possesses the sinews and flesh to revive us again just as he revived the Jewish people languishing in misery in the land of Babylon. But we have to first believe that he can do so.
Let us not make the mistake of Mary and Martha to think that anyone deserves some preferential attention from God. We are all prone to the tragedies of life. And God cares for us as much as he cares for others. So when we are hit by life’s tragedy, we should always remember that God is there with us. And that our healing only begins when we stop dwelling on our hurts and start trusting on God for healing and restoration.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, strengthen us in our moments of sorrow and pain; and give us the courage to trust in you and heal from them. Amen.