Vol. 6, No. 28
Daughters of Mary Commentary
28 March 2017
John 11: 1-45
In John’s gospel, we are reminded that Jesus is fully human. He expressed His feelings in many Biblical passages. In 11:35 (today’s gospel) John stated, “Jesus wept.” This describes His sadness at the death of his friend. To see Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, as well as many others deep in grief, troubled Him as well. Those who saw Jesus weep concluded, “See how He loved him.” The Jews wondered why Jesus allowed death to occur since it caused Him so much grief. Jesus knew what was to be, though, that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, but no one else did. They must have been astonished when He did not go immediately and cure His sick friend whom He dearly loved.
In many Biblical passages, we are told Jesus often came to the aid of people in need. He fed the 5,000 when they were hungry. He restored sight to the blind, cleansed the leper, and provided wine at the wedding feast. Jesus turned to His father when He felt compassion. In John 11:41, Jesus shared His grief with His Father. “Father, I thank you for hearing Me.”
Perhaps Jesus wanted to not just tell us about compassion, but show us what it looked like. He knew He had the power to heal Lazarus, yet he chose to allow death to occur and feel the sadness. The Greek word for this strong show of emotion includes anger. Was Jesus angry about the sadness death causes? Jesus knows what it is like to live on this earth with a broken heart. He knows there is a season for sorrow. We are encouraged in the Psalms, though, that joy comes in the morning. Jesus does not want us to live in brokenness, but be healed of the grief.
When our loved ones are ill, we wonder why Jesus delays our request or seems to ignore it. Is He telling us this illness is for the glory of God? Suffering and death have meaning. God can use them for His purposes in the world even if we don’t understand their role in God’s plan.
God is with us in our sorrows and joys. We strive to have empathy for others as Jesus does for us. There is no need to pretend we are fine when we are troubled. We need to lament our losses and pray for healing that only He can provide. In Proverbs 23:18 it is written, “You will surely have a future and your hope will not be cut off.”
Our suffering can make us more compassionate toward others. Those who are divorced may lead groups in Beginning Experience retreats. Recovering alcoholics may help others gain sobriety through invitations to AA meetings. God wants us to feel our feelings and not minimize the pain. We don’t have to be alone in our pain. God was not alone in His suffering. Psalm 34:18 tells us, “God uses our sorrow to build greater intimacy with Him.” His presence and the presence of others get us through the worst times. Being in community with others takes our minds off our pain for a while.
We must resist the urge to give solutions when we are with those in sorrow. Empathy and presence are enough if the grieving person wants company. We are (Romans 12:15) to mourn with those who mourn. We know from the beatitudes that those who mourn will be comforted. While mourning, though, speak words of encouragement. Before Jesus wept at the raising of Lazarus, (11:35) He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”(11:25) “Do you believe this?” asked Jesus, and Martha answered, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Afterwards, Jesus called, “Lazarus come forth.” (John 11:43)
How can we show compassion for others? People are soothed differently. When I hear what others do, I am encouraged to comfort those who are suffering. We are called to use our own gifts to show compassion toward others. Some people like to send cards with a note of concern, others prepare and bring food. Just a telephone call or a text can brighten one’s day. Provide a shoulder to cry on. Send a care package. Bake cookies. Asking a friend how you can pray for her that day is comforting.
In summary, Jesus performed many miracles because He loved everyone and had a soft heart. He felt sad that His friend, Lazarus, was ill but still did not attend to him right away. Mary and Martha were angry at that. They did not know that Jesus would perform an even greater miracle when He raised Lazarus from the dead four days later. Let us emulate Jesus in showing love and compassion for others and let us be ready to answer His question to Martha by professing our faith in Him at the Easter renewal of Baptismal promises.
Life Abounding – A Reading of John’s Gospel by Brendan Byrne
No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece
The Gospel of John by Francis Martin