March 29, 2020 – 5th Sunday of Lent

“Exclaiming with hope and trust: ‘Thank you Lord for the pain! I know there is a purpose! I know I am loved!’”

(Based on Ezek 37:12-14, Rom 8:8-11 and Jn 11:1-45)

An incident is narrated of a 6-year old boy, who was diagnosed with leukemia (cancer of the blood/bone-marrow).

One day, the child had to undergo a very painful procedure called “spinal tap”.
(‘Spinal Tap’ is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the spinal cord in order to take out fluid for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment).

The mother, knowing that her child would have to undergo a lot of pain, approached him and told:
“Remember, if it hurts, it’s because you are loved, and there is purpose for the pain!”

The child remembered this sentence and took it to heart.

As the procedure was conducted, the child yelled and sobbed and cried…
… with the horrendous pain.

When the process was finally getting through, the child, with tears in his reddish eyes, looked up to the doctor and exclaimed:
“Thank you Doctor for the pain!
I know there is a purpose!
I know I am loved!”

(The incident goes on to say, that the child survived the painful illness and went on to live a normal life!)

Well, life often takes us through “painful procedures,” right?
(Just as all of us are going through painful moments of fear and suffering in the midst of the deadly sickness!”

In all such situations, our Christian faith reminds us:
“Remember, if it hurts, it’s because you are loved, and there is purpose for the pain!”

The Gospel of the Day – the raising of Lazarus – is a powerful teaching on this dimension of how we need to put our trust in the Lord…
… and realise, that there is a purpose that God has in store for us, even in the most painful situations of our life.

The narration of the raising of Lazarus is the longest single narrative/story in the entire Gospels (Jn 11: 1-45).

Long as it is, this incident also teaches us a number of essential lessons for life…

  1. The Providence of God, that answers, even when we do not “feel” His presence around us (Jn 11: 4-6)

“So when Jesus heard, that Lazarus was ill, He remained for two days in the place where He was” (Jn 11: 6)

Thus teaching us…
… we need to depend on the Lord at all times, even in our dark moments of life
… the Lord will never abandon us and in fact, can never leave us

  1. The slow understanding of the Disciples, who were with the Lord for a while, and yet had not understood His Ways and Words (Jn 11: 8-16)

“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved” (Jn 11: 12)

Thus teaching us…
… doubts and dilemmas are very much part of one’s life as a disciple
… the patience of the Lord in dealing with those who are called and chosen

  1. The power of trust and hope in the Lord, even in hard and trying situations of life (Jn 11: 21-27)

Martha said to Jesus, ‘Yes Lord, I have come to believe, that You are the Messiah, the Son of God…” (Jn 11: 27)

Thus teaching us…
… as gold is tested in furnace, so our faith will be tested in the crucible of pains and sufferings
… we need to resign ourselves to the Power of the Lord, even though we may not understand many things

  1. The empathy of the Lord in sharing with the pain of humanity (Jn 11: 35)

“And Jesus wept” (Jn 11: 35)

Thus teaching us…
… in our suffering moments, the Lord is very much close to us, and suffers with us
… our tears are precious to the Lord and He stores them in a bottle (Ps 56:9)

  1. The power of God’s Word (Jn 11: 43-44)

“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!'” (Jn 11: 43)

Thus teaching us…
… the Word Which created the entire universe, is given to us in the Holy Bible, for us to read, cherish and find strength!
… the promises given by His Word will come to fruition in due season and no powers on this earth can diffuse or dilute it!

In the midst of all these and various other “food for transformation” that this incident offers…
… we focus our attention on one message: “God’s delays are not His denials”

Yes, God’s delays are, certainly, not His denials!

One of the striking aspects we encounter in this Gospel passage is the delay that Jesus “purposely” entails in coming to Lazarus.

The Gospel says that “… when Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” (Jn 11: 6)

This statement is on one side surprising; while on the other, shocking!

It was clearly known that Jesus was closely associated with Lazarus.

“A friend in need, is a friend indeed” is a phrase that we are aware.

Then why did Jesus delay in going to Lazarus?

As the Lord Himself answers: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (Jn 11: 4)

This verse then is the key to many of our problems and anxieties about “prayers not being answered!”

How many are the times, when we go through the struggles of life, and we expect the Lord to work a wondrous deed…
… But when nothing as such happens, we become feeble in our faith!

How many are the occasions, when we face a problem in our material or spiritual life, and we hope that something terrific is going to happen…
… But when the situation remains the same, we begin to waver in our belief!

This is where the words of the Lord, “this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God”…
… ought to come to our aid!

We need to examine our life…
… Am I only having “belief in the Lord”, but not having “trust in Him”?
… Am I only “professing the Lord with my lips”, but failing to “recognize His power from my heart”?

“Belief in the Lord” would only consist of declaring oneself to be a Christian, and having a name that one is a follower of Christ…
… But “Trust in the Lord” would translate to also follow the commandments of being a Christian, and seek to live as Christ lived, by seeking and doing God’s Will in life.

“Professing the Lord with my lips” would only include saying vocal prayers, being regular to the practices of devotion and piety and finding satisfaction in doing the external duties of the religion…
… But “Recognizing His Power from the heart” would mean to also remain calm in the face of problems, being patient even in great darkness and being joyful in the midst of turbulent life situations.

As Christians, the only way is the “Way of the Cross”
… a way filled with pains and sufferings
… a way that enshrines hardships and struggles

But, we must also realise, that it is this “way of the Cross” alone…
… that would lead to the “joy of the Resurrection!”

All our “unwanted” situations of life – pains, struggles, difficulties and crisis – have a meaning and purpose in the eternal plan of God…

“… all things work for good, for those who love God…” (Rom 8:28)
“… I know well that plans for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe…” (Jer 29:11)

The Word of God assures us through Prophet Ezekiel and St Paul that God will raise us up from every grave and from every “dead situation” – the “grave and the death of sicknesses, hopelessness and fear!”

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people…
… And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord!” (Ezek 37:13-14)
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you!” (Rom 8:11)

Yes, in all our struggles and hardships of life – especially in this time when all of us are facing the harsh reality of sicknesses, let us seek…
… to move higher in our faith and belief towards a real “trust in the Lord”
… to advance from just “professing the Lord with my lips” to “recognizing His power from our hearts!”

And thus, in every situation of life let us with hope and trust exclaim:
“Thank you Lord for the pain!
I know there is a purpose!
I know I am loved!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father Who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me and I in Him!’”

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