Losing Lazarus…Losing God? (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)
A number of times, when I am invited to preside at a wake or a funeral mass, I witness the grief of the loved ones of the deceased. Sometimes, I can feel their pain even in their silence during the Eucharistic celebration and the blessing of the remains of their departed loved one. This experience has made me understand the grief of Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. Martha and Mary suffered the deep pain of losing someone they loved so much. When they saw Jesus, they expressed their pain saying: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21,32) Jesus Himself wept when He asked: “Where have you put him?” (John 11:34)
The pain of losing someone dear to us may, at times, be unbearable. We can just imagine how Martha, Mary and Jesus felt when they lost Lazarus. I find the pain of losing Lazarus as an invitation to reflect on what happens to us when we lose a sense of God in our lives because of sin. Do we also grieve because we have sinned? When we have lost our sense of goodness and holiness, do we also feel the pain of losing God Who loves us and Whom we love so much?
Many years ago, when I was still a seminarian, I underwent what is called a 30-day retreat called the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Our retreat days were filled with periodic moments of contemplating different facets of the spiritual life. One prayer experience I will never forget was my contemplation on hell. In my contemplation, I felt that ‘being in hell’ was being totally separated from God. I was in a lot of discord and desolation during my prayer. Amidst the scary thoughts of the fiery furnace of hell or the experience of being thrown into total darkness, I could not imagine myself losing God. I felt deep pain in my heart when I realized that separation from God was caused by my sinfulness due to my own selfishness and pride. I knew deep inside me that I could not, and cannot, live without God in my life.
Jesus told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in Me, even though he dies, he will live, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) As we approach the end of the Lenten season and look forward to the glory of Easter, let us believe that Jesus will never allow us to be separated from Him. He is our resurrection from sin and death. He will grant us eternal life.
Share this insight during this holy season of #lent