Not Always a Wonderful Life

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 17, 2024 – Fifth Sunday of Lent, John 12:20-33

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Jesus is coming to the end of his life on Earth. He tells his followers that he is approaching death. He is still relatively young, but he sees opposition building around him. Perhaps he looked back on his recent years, his public life as we call it, and wondered whether it was all good. Did he accomplish what he had hoped to do? And was he always happy?


While the gospels are silent on much of what he experienced, it seems clear that he accepted his past and was not seeking escape from what seemed ahead of him. He recalled good moments, but also those when it was difficult and discouraging. And he likely expected even harder moments ahead. In other words, he had good days, but also times from a human perspective were not always as good. Just like us.


But perhaps not like how we would like to be. I’m not a fan of television commercials, but they are difficult to avoid. Recently, I have been made aware of the fact that 99% of them have a basic message: Try to buy what we are selling and you will be happy. There is no need to be in pain, to worry over life’s challenges (financial or otherwise) or live without continuous happiness.


After hearing this a thousand times, we might begin to doubt the value of our lives where things are not as wonderful as we might wish. We too have good days and days that are not. Just like Jesus. We often find ourselves facing very difficult challenges and wonder whether this is part of God’s plan for us or not. Again, just like it seems Jesus did.


When he prayed before his death in the garden, he asked God to allow him to take another path. An easier one. One without suffering and ridicule and the cross. He wanted to take an easier way. Then, as we know so well, he moved to acceptance. He eventually took up his cross and, as today’s gospel notes, he was lifted up.


Each of us will experience the carrying of our own cross. Each of us will complain and wonder whether this is part of what God intends. God understands our desire to enjoy the lives we have been given. And understands our concerns and questions, even complaints. God has heard this before, even from Jesus, himself. Yet we continue on. We accept our lives as part of what it means to follow Jesus to the end.


David M. Thomas, PhD    


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