Fifth Sunday of Lent. April 2, 2017 [John 11:1-45]
Today’s Gospel contains my personal favorite verse: Then, Jesus wept. It is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet it is also one of the most powerful. However, its strength does not rest on any superhuman power that can multiply bread or calm the storm, but on the humanity of Jesus.
The death of Lazarus must have been overwhelming for the family. In the ancient Jewish society, man was responsible for the survival of the family. If presumably, Lazarus was the only bread winner, Martha and Mary would have a serious problem in surviving in that troubled and difficult times. But, more than any economic difficulty, a loss of a family member due to sickness and death had always crushed the entire family. Not only Martha and Mary were uncertain of their future, they also had to endure the terrible pain of losing someone they loved dearly, a brother with whom they shared a lot of good memories, and a friend to whom they could trust and rely on. Anyone of us who has lost a beloved family member can easily commensurate with Martha and Family.
When Jesus saw Martha and Mary were grieving and weeping, Jesus was groaned and was troubled. And when He saw the tomb, He began to shed tears as well. He did not pretend that He was Ok, or He did not appear as if nothing happened. He got affected by the overwhelming emotion and suffering, and He wept. We see today Jesus who is truly human and becomes one with our humanity with its all pains, sufferings, and grief. The revelation is that before Jesus does any miracle or sign, He first becomes part of our sorrow, our humanity. This very consoling.
We are living at a time where success and happiness are the determinants of a fulfilled life. No wonder, the books or seminars on ‘positive thinking’, ‘greatness’, ‘self-help’ or ‘success’ are mushrooming. Even we and some other churches follow suit and preach the ‘Gospel of Prosperity’. I guess there is nothing wrong with being successful and rich, all are a blessing of God. It becomes problematic when we tend to focus on the happy only emotions and suppress ‘negative’ emotions by reciting ‘positive thinking mantra’ or attending praise and worship. In the face of sufferings, failures, and loss of someone we love or we are crushed by burden of life, it is but natural to feel sorrow. Many psychologists would agree that suppression of this feeling will do more harm than good. In the animation film ‘Inside Out’, life of Riley, the main protagonist, turns to be a little mess when Sadness is pushed aside, and Joy is always at the helm. But, when Joy gives away to Sadness, things begin to fall in their places. God created Sadness also, and it is for a good purpose.
Certainly Jesus does not teach us to be melancholic, nor to dwell in our grief for eternity. He teaches us what it means to be fully and truly human, with all love, joy, sorrow, hope, fear, and anger. Our faith tells us that Jesus is not only fully divine, but also fully human, and this means that when we strive to know Jesus, not only we know more about God, but also about humanity. The more we love Jesus, the more we become truly human.
Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP