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When God Doesn’t Make Sense - Week V

Three Things: Eternal Life - Timing - Faith

We find ourselves in the last week of our Message Series “When God Does Not Make Sense” and I cannot but smile at the perfect timing of these themes chosen before the Corona Virus Pandemic.

During these days, we have so many doubts, concerns, fears & questions. It is easy and natural to ask: God what are you doing?

But first we must admit that we cannot see all ends as God sees them. Instead, we are encouraged to trust and to grow and to mature in our faith with the Lord.

This week is a lot like two weeks ago: obstacles and growth - when we recognized in the Flight from slavery to Egypt that God placed obstacles in the way of his people in order to raise them in a mature faith. God stretches us so that we can be better and stronger servants for him.

During these days, our good God is asking us to grow in faith and trust. Remember that God reveals his heart to us in the SS. Now, each day we likely have more time to meditate a bit on his holy word - to spend some time being open - so that God can reveal his heart to us.

As this awesome Gospel sweeps over us - we read almost the whole chapter 11 of John. 

Raising of Lazarus from the tomb is the climax of Book of Signs. The ULTIMATE Sign of Jesus’ identity and power, but also the act that leads to his arrest. I can’t help but think that part of his weeping here is “seeing” his own passion on the horizon and recognizing that by his own death he will grant an eternal victory over death to those who belong to him.

First theme: Eternal Life

This Gospel is a beautiful foreshadowing of eternal life. As a priest, very often, I encounter this Gospel during funerals. It is so comforting to know that Jesus weeps for his friend Lazarus, to know he weeps with those who weep, and that he comforts the broken-hearted.

This miracle also served to convert many Jews to Jesus. Lazarus up and walking around is a powerful sign for all of us: that there is ETERNAL LIFE on the other side of death.

Our belonging to Christ is an anticipation of sharing in his victory.

Many people have died from COVID-19, and many more will die during this pandemic. We pray for them all and all who are caring for them.

In the USA, we are just at the beginning.  If we are serious and really keep to ourselves, stay inside, avoid all unnecessary travel  (biking is necessary for life!) then we can keep the death rate around 1%... but that is still a lot of people.

330 million in America … 3.3 million 9 million in NJ - 90,000.

Family and friends will pass away. This Gospel is a gospel for them and for us. It is beautiful that the Holy Spirit placed it here today, just at this time. Good timing, God! We need to be reminded that eternal life exists beyond death. Jesus you are the Resurrection and the Life!

Second theme: Timing

Speaking of timing, that is one of our key themes for today. Sometimes, God’s timing is not our timing.

We learn in the Gospel that Jesus heard Lazarus was ill and then waited two days before heading to Bethany. When he arrived, Lazarus had been dead 4 days…. 4 days!!

At the time of Jesus, there was a belief that the spirit lingered in or with the body for 3 days. The spirit departed on the 4th day - this heightened the power of the miracle about to occur.

And I am sure that when Lazarus hears his own name from inside the dark tomb, with the stone rolled away, and bandaged up - he is grateful and stunned and confused and… you get the idea. A life-altering moment!

But Lazarus … also could have said... Hey buddy... you’re late!

Bad timing, dear Jesus - the train has left the station.

You know… I have a friend who might be watching. A friend who has had a Lazarus moment - a dying and a rising, a severe illness and restoration of health… and rather than see:

  • all the good that has occurred
  • The voice of hope to others he has been
  • a sign of solidarity for those who suffer that YES THEY TOO CAN MAKE IT

He tends to ask: why me? And to cry out to the divine Physician: “You were late.”

Sometimes, God’s timing is not our timing. But He is always at work!

God’s timing in this corona pandemic is not MY timing. I would much prefer the kids to be in the school and the parish buzzing in its normal routine. But I am confident that the good Lord is at work, and we must trust that things are ordered to the glory of God.

Third Theme: Faith

In the Gospel we see such examples of Faith: Martha and Mary both make beautiful confessions of faith. They believe that Jesus has the power to grant their brother eternal life.

But Jesus is also seeking to build faith among the Jewish community. One of the interesting things Jesu does is invite the crowd gathered at the tomb to “Roll Away the Stone.”

Does Jesus need help rolling away a stone? The one who can still the storm, multiple the bread, heal the leper, exorcize legion demons - does he need help with a rock? NO > yet he seeks their assistance, their participation.

Jesus wants them to do their part. He will do his part.

We do the possible. Jesus does the Impossible.

Many times in the Gospel we see this: he asked the blind man to go and wash in Siloam. He asks the disciples, “give them some food yourselves.” Christ lets the friends of the cripple break through the roof to lower him down…

Many times, Christ wants us to do our part that He may do his part. This is part of our growing in the Faith and part of our participation in the work of redemption.

Jesus does not want us on the sideline. He wants us in the game!

I have witnessed faith in action in NEW ways during these weeks. NEW inspiring ways to live the Gospel - and blessed to be part of that.

Parents spending more time with their children and teaching them personally about the Faith.

Good folk calling in to say they want to call some of our older folks and make sure they have what they need… ok, let’s make a list.

Padre: I want to cook some food and make sure it gets to families who need it, ok let’s reach out to Maple Shade Food Bank.

Fr.: what can we do to sanitize the church to make sure it is a safe place to worship? Let’s get a small group together.

Padre: we know we can’t come to Mass for a while but we want to keep supporting our parish. We know our parish family needs us. Where can we leave our envelopes?

Mail Slot - or check out Givelify on our parish website. Thank you!

And many other things.

Now is precisely the time to do our part, whatever we can do. Someone said that to me just the other day: we are not going to focus on what we can’t do, but on what we CAN do. Amen, Sister!

These are the the themes God has placed on my heart to share with you:

Hope in Eternal Life - Irony and Trust in God’s timing - and the Faith lived out… doing our part (the possible) so God can do his part (the impossible).

Remember what Jesus teaches:  I am the Resurrection and the Life! Death will have no power over the one who believes in Him!

Fr. Joel Wilson