Reflection on the Gospel of John
Meg Waldron, IPS M.A. Pastoral Studies Student
Reflection on the Gospel of John 11: 1-45 I am the resurrection and the life.
“So the sisters sent word to Jesus. Lord, the one you love is sick . . . Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
I imagine my own sisters, Vicky and Chris, running to Jesus and crying out, “Jesus! Meg, the one you love, is sick. Do something! Save her! Do not take her from us! Do not let her suffer!” Jesus comforts them and says, “Do not be afraid. Meg’s illness will not destroy her. I am with her always and she believes in Me! Meg understands this with her whole being. She is free. She will always be free.”
I have experienced two serious illnesses: polymyositis in 1996 and salivary gland cancer in 2009. Each time God sends me wonderful doctors who treat me and control my illnesses, and my family and friends love and comfort me. For those of you living with illness, or with any form of suffering, you may experience that suffering impacts your whole being, not only physically, but spiritually, mentally, emotionally, socially, financially, etc. In my own journey, I know that God comforts me through my pain and sets me free.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Yes, I believe this. I am still here. Parts of me have died. I am not the same on many levels as I was before I was ill, but that is okay. There is something in me that cannot be destroyed, no matter how many serious diagnoses I receive; no matter how progressive my illnesses become. My body may fail me again and again, but I am renewed in Christ each day. I draw closer to and seek God in each moment, regardless of my illnesses.
It is God who dwells in each one of us, and He cannot be destroyed. When we place our trust and hope in God, we witness His glory and healing power within us and our life experiences.During Lent in 2007 I attended a retreat at St. Peter’s in the Loop led by Father Bob Hutmacher. The retreat was titled The Reality of the Cross: Living with Pain and Chronic Illness. Fr. Bob explained that Christ came so that we could relate to Him. When we connect our experience to the Paschal Mystery — Christ’s suffering, dying and resurrection — we realize this is the cycle of our life experiences: we fall down; we struggle; we rise up. Suffering is all around us, but we are renewed through Christ. When we cling to God in our pain, we are comforted and set free.
These two words clearly reveal Jesus’ compassion for our pain. Although Jesus knows that he can bring Lazarus back to life, he feels deep compassion for those who love Lazarus and are suffering because of their loss of Lazarus.
I have been asked if it is God’s plan that I became ill. Who would ever wish illness on anyone, especially our loving God? I do believe, like no other experience, that the suffering, tragedy, and sorrow in our lives become the unimaginable gifts that lead us to a deeper relationship with God and others. This is how we experience God’s boundless love, and the Paschal Mystery within our own lives: we fall down; we struggle; we rise up. We go on living with our loving God.
I want to see God in all things, including my illness. I want to feel God’s compassion throughout my ongoing experience of illness. My prayer and hope for you is to see God in all things and feel His compassion throughout your suffering and your joy. In our suffering, let us allow God to renew, restore and strengthen us. Let us allow God to comfort us, and set us free.
“Take away the stone.”
Take away my stones of disappointment, my sadness, my bewilderment, my despair, my denial, my darkness. My illness consumed me. I was diagnosed in 1996 with polymyositis, and this is now 2007 when I am attending the retreat. I never believed that I could get a true break, no real relief. I believed that the only way that I could be free was to have the illness taken from me; my physical body completely healed. In the beginning of the retreat, I thought to myself, I completely understand the suffering associated with illness, but where is the resurrection? Do I need to be dead before I am free from illness? This is where I made my true turn to God. I believed. I understood. I surrendered.
My experience at the retreat transformed me, pushed me in a different direction towards God, in an everlasting and comprehensive way that I had never imagined possible. My body is still ill, but my spirit is not destroyed. My spirit is constantly renewed and restored in Christ. Funny, I had 12 years of Catholic education and was raised in a large, loving Catholic family, but in my time of darkness I forgot about the power of the Paschal Mystery, and I could not apply it to my own experience.
Through God’s generous, healing grace, I truly connect to Jesus and the Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery also dwells inside each one of us. We are human, so we suffer, but God comforts us and is always with us. He lifts us up. He takes our stones away and sets us free. Connecting to Jesus and the Paschal Mystery, I have learned to live within the mystery of my illness, which is not an easy thing to do. I also have learned, very deeply, that through suffering, comes new life.
“Lazarus, come out! Untie him, and let him go.”
Jesus prayed to his Father before he called Lazarus to come out of the tomb. He thanked his Father for hearing him. Jesus knew that his Father always heard him. God hears us too and we praise Him. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so that the people would believe that God the Father sent Jesus to live among us, to save us from our sins, so that we may live eternally with God.
Lazarus emerged from the tomb bound in bandages and wrapped in cloth. Jesus said, “Untie him, and let him go.” Lazarus’ sisters truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Suffering, illness, and death have lost their power over us because God heals and raises His people up. Lazarus is free and his sisters mourn no more.
Jesus calls us to turn to Him in our suffering in order to untie ourselves and fully feel His love and compassion. God’s grace allows us to live fully and love God fully regardless of our suffering.
Life is a process, a journey, and each one of us finds our own way in our own time. Although we cannot avoid suffering in this life, I know that through God’s glory, suffering brings us new, everlasting life and generous peace.