Monday, March 12, 2018

Jesus in the Midst of Suffering - Mar. 18, 2018

The Fifth Sunday of Lent - Year B

Reading I:  Ezekiel 37: 12-14

Psalm:  130

Reading II:  Romans 8: 8-11

Gospel:  John 11: 1-45

Today’s Gospel reading for the Christian Initiation recounts the raising of Lazarus. It is an illustration of the Lord’s presence with us in the midst of suffering.

In the icon to the right, we see a symbolic representation of the raising of Lazarus. We see Martha and her sister Mary in grief after the death of their brother Lazarus. It is in this situation that the Gospel writer describes Jesus as weeping. He is so deeply touched by his own loss and the grief of Lazarus’ sisters that he reacts emotionally. He exhibits deep compassion.

It is important that we see this characteristic of Jesus so that we can realize how Jesus, the human face of God, is able to understand and feel for us in our sufferings. That is a wonderful source of comfort when we are experiencing suffering. We do not have a God who is indifferent to our suffering, but one who has experienced it himself.

Why would our God choose to experience human suffering when it was not even necessary for our salvation? God could have redeemed us in some other way. Perhaps, He wanted us to feel close to Him.

Shared experience can draw people closer. Think of the bonds between members of AA who understand the struggles of one another. Think of the bonds between veterans who have experienced the horrors of war together. Jesus wants a deep emotional bond with us.

How close He becomes to us when we receive Him in the Eucharist! He becomes one with us in body and spirit. What an unbelievably intimate and loving God we have! The beautiful hymn: “Panis Angelicus” is one human expression which attempts to celebrate that wonderful gift from the Lord.

"Heavenly Bread"   English Translation   Luciano Pavarotti

Heavenly bread
That becomes the bread for all mankind;
Bread from the angelic host
That is the end of all imaginings;
Oh, miraculous thing!
This body of God will nourish
Even the poorest,
The most humble of servants.
Even the poorest,
The most humble of servants.

 Question for Reflection:   Can you recall any suffering that you experienced that brought about spiritual growth?

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...
Jesús en medio del sufrimiento

La lectura del Evangelio de hoy para la Iniciación Cristiana relata la resurrección de Lázaro. Es una ilustración de la presencia del Señor con nosotros en medio del sufrimiento.

En el ícono a la derecha, vemos una representación simbólica de la resurrección de Lázaro. Vemos a Marta y a su hermana María en dolor después de la muerte de su hermano Lázaro. Es en esta situación que el escritor del Evangelio describe a Jesús como un llanto. Él está tan profundamente conmovido por su propia pérdida y el dolor de las hermanas de Lázaro que reacciona emocionalmente. Él exhibe una profunda compasión.

Es importante que veamos esta característica de Jesús para que podamos darnos cuenta de cómo Jesús, el rostro humano de Dios, es capaz de entendernos y sentir por nosotros en nuestros sufrimientos. Esa es una maravillosa fuente de consuelo cuando estamos sufriendo. No tenemos un Dios que sea indiferente a nuestro sufrimiento, sino uno que lo ha experimentado él mismo.

¿Por qué nuestro Dios elegiría experimentar el sufrimiento humano cuando ni siquiera era necesario para nuestra salvación? Dios podría habernos redimido de alguna otra manera. Quizás, Él quería que nos sintiéramos cerca de él.

La experiencia compartida puede acercar a las personas. Piense en los lazos entre los miembros de AA que entienden las luchas de los demás. Piense en los lazos entre los veteranos que han experimentado los horrores de la guerra juntos. Jesús quiere un vínculo emocional profundo con nosotros.

¡Cuán cerca se vuelve de nosotros cuando lo recibimos en la Eucaristía! Él se vuelve uno con nosotros en cuerpo y espíritu. ¡Qué Dios tan increíblemente íntimo y amoroso tenemos! El hermoso himno: “Panis Angelicus” es una expresión humana que intenta celebrar ese regalo maravilloso del Señor.

"Pan celestial"   Traducción al inglés Luciano Pavarotti

Pan celestial
Eso se convierte en el pan para toda la humanidad;
Pan del anfitrión angelical
Ese es el final de todas las imaginaciones;
¡Oh, cosa milagrosa!
Este cuerpo de Dios nutrirá
Incluso los más pobres,
El más humilde de los sirvientes.
Incluso los más pobres,
El más humilde de los sirvientes.

 Pregunta de reflexión:   ¿Puedes recordar algún sufrimiento que experimentaste que produjo el crecimiento espiritual?


  1. We know from prior gospels that Martha, Mary and Lazarus hold special warmth in the heart of Jesus. They are close friends who had shared their hearth and home, food and companionship with him. When Jesus encounters the sisters this time they are broken hearted and grieving deeply the loss of their cherished brother.
    I am excited to share with your readers a reflection, authored by an unnamed member of the Associates of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, San Antonio Magnolia Group, from a 2001 Lenten booklet entitled, “A Call to the Heart.”
    “The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead challenges us with the same potency that it challenged Martha and Mary of Bethany so many years ago. Despite being a miracle story, it is also a very human story. This is because it strikes at the very essence of human vulnerability: the knowledge and meaning of our own eventual encounter with physical death.
    For whatever good reason, Jesus delays coming to the side of his sick friend. His arrival at Bethany brings him face to face with the raw pain and grief of women he loves, friends who trust him. He feels the weight of their grief, and hears their lament at his absence during their time of need. His very human and sacred heart must ache along with their hearts.
    Then something extraordinary happens to this beloved family of Bethany. Jesus begins to remove the heavy stone of grief from their lives. He comforts Martha, listening to her attempts to deal with the death of her brother. Times of loss can challenge faith and belief. Jesus encounters Martha exactly where she is in her faith journey, as she thinks out loud and speaks with him about her belief. Martha struggles with the mystery of the wonderful revelation of the Lord; he is life, he is the resurrection, belief in him is life everlasting. Jesus continues to engage and question her until she comes to a deeper understanding of exactly who he is: the long awaited one, the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus joins Mary in her tears, his own weeping honoring the sacred nature of her suffering. Jesus does not pull back from pain. He enters into these deep feelings in a very human way, with tears of loss streaming down his cheeks. His friend is dead, and his throat and chest must ache with tears that have to be shed. Jesus does not protect either himself or Mary from pain. Rather, he stands with her, friends carrying the weight of grief together.
    Jesus moves beyond his human pain, beyond the tears, into a place of faith and union with the Father as he makes clear the enormity of his revelation to Martha. He instructs those present to take away the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. Calling forth the dead Lazarus, Jesus frees him from his place of darkness. He liberates Lazarus from the binding constraints of death, and returns him the light of life and familial companionship. “
    This reflection exquisitely touches on the connecting human qualities of Jesus that you mention in your post: Jesus is with us in the midst of our suffering, he is deeply compassionate, he understands and feels our pain, and he wants a deep emotional bond with us.
    Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about Jesus waiting to welcome our beloved one into a new home, a tremendous sense of peace and comfort can be felt through our tears. Pat C., ASBS

  2. Sr. Therese M. Warner, SBSMarch 13, 2018 at 8:34 AM

    Yes, indeed. It is important to remember that God's understanding, love and compassion are far beyond our comprehension. The story of Lazarus is certainly a touching one!

    The following excerpts are from a homily delivered by Msgr. Charles Pope:

    "The gospel today is, to the world, utter madness, utter foolishness. For Christ, in effect, declares that dying (to this world) is the only way to true life. While the world's so-called wisdom declares to us that the way to life is power, prestige, possessions, and popularity, Jesus says that we should die to all that in order to find life."

    "Indeed, most of us struggle to understand and accept what the Lord is saying, but the Lord can give us a heart for what really matters, a heart for God, for love, and for the things waiting for us in heaven. And the way to this new life is through the Cross. Jesus had to go to the Cross and die to give us this new life. And we, too, must go to the Cross and die with Him in order to rise to new life."

    "There is a song that says:

    'Years I spent in vanity and pride,
    Caring not my Lord was crucified.
    Knowing not it was for me He died
    On Calvary.

    Now I've given Jesus everything.
    Now I gladly own Him as my King.
    Now my raptured heart can only sing
    Of Calvary.

    Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan!
    Oh the grace that brought it down to man!
    Oh the mighty gulf that God did span
    At Calvary!' "