The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
March 21, 2021 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - John 11:1-45
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We have no record of what Lazarus was thinking when he walked out of the tomb where his body was stored for four days. All we have are the complaints of his sisters, Martha and Mary, which they voiced to Jesus. Their general point was why didn’t Jesus come earlier and cure their brother before he died.
Theirs was a concern for timing and reflects our human desire to control the events of the day, a need that all of us have at one time or another. We have no difficulty siding with the two sisters. If we have a desire for one thing or another to happen, we commonly want it done sooner rather than later. And at a time when we want it to happen.
I spent close to a decade of my life in seminary life, preparing for eventual ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Without boring you with the details, it was eventually decided jointly by my religious community and myself that I head in another direction, which I did. Yet I began to ask myself, why didn’t God inform me about all this a few years earlier. Like the two sisters of Lazarus, I questioned God’s timing. I didn’t so much question God’s new call to me, just the timing of it.
Jesus’ response to them (and to me) is the same: this was the way that God wanted to accomplish something, and this was God’s schedule for doing it. We humans are not in full control of our lives. God is, and God has reasons (the best of reasons) in playing a major role in our personal lives. Of course, determining what’s God’s intent is far from easy. We all struggle with this. I did as a walked out the door of the seminary. Lazarus’s sisters did when he (finally) came forth from the tomb.
Today’s gospel even suggests that the question of God’s intent and timing is not a simple matter. When Jesus first heard about the death of his friend, we are given some of the most poignant words of the gospels: “And Jesus wept.” Yes, that was a reference to his deep human love for his friend, Lazarus. And his own struggle with the deep issues (life and death issues) that we all face.
Our best prayer in this matter is found in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done.” I am also reminded of a prayer sometimes attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola. “Act as if everything depended on you. Pray as if it all depended on God.” Life is filled with mysteries. God’s use of time in each of our lives is one of them.
©David M. Thomas, PhD