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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

"The One Whom You Love is Sick"

“I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”

This is how Ezekiel ends our First Reading today. What we just heard was, in fact, the ending of the section in Ezekiel about the prophecy of the “dry bones,” where the prophet had a vision of a vast field of bones scattered and forgotten. Instructed by God, Ezekiel spoke the Word of God to the bones, and they began to rattle together, to stand up, and miraculously live again. This is what God wants to do for His people, and He means it: “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”

However, here we are, turning to God in the midst of hardship and fear, yearning for another one of those great promises. So, we look to Jesus, and we encounter Him today in His Word in the Gospel. His loved one, Lazarus, is sick – very sick – and Lazarus’ family and friends are scared. They have nowhere else to turn, except to send work to Jesus. Surely, reaching out to our Savior is the answer to these fears and hardships.

And what does Jesus do? “When he heard that [Lazarus] was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.”

Jesus did nothing.

He didn’t move; He didn’t send word ahead to Martha and Mary that He’d be there as soon as possible; He didn’t make any arrangements with the Apostles.

Jesus. Did. Nothing.

What the heck are we supposed to make of this – especially as we are crying out to Him now? Does it feel like that to you too? Do you feel the absence of Jesus in your own life – as you are holed up in your homes and kept from approaching Jesus in the Eucharist? What on earth can we learn from the apparent absence of Jesus in these days? I need Him here! Where is He? What is He doing?

This may be where many of us are during these days. Jesus might feel distant; like He is “just staying where He is.”

However, I want to point out that there are many times in the Gospels when Jesus withdraws – when He separates Himself from others, even His closest friends. These are not moments of deliberate abandoning or of indifference on the part of the Lord. Rather, they are times of intense prayer for Jesus. Consider His time in the desert after His baptism (a time after which Lent is modeled, by the way). Jesus spent that time fasting and praying. Why? Because He was preparing for His own ministry, when He would finally emerge on the scene and bring the love and power of God into the lives of everyone He met.

Another time, St. Luke tells us, Jesus spent the entire night in prayer alone, and when He emerged the next day He chose His twelve Apostles. Each one of them was the fruit of His divine, intimate prayer – Father, Son, and Spirit in communion.

Again, He calls His Apostles to “come apart alone” so that they (and He) can rest; and following that brief time of separation, Jesus encounters a crowd and miraculously feeds them all.

Finally, as we will recall in a week, Jesus spent time alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying ahead of His most important and most wonderful work” His Passion and Resurrection from the dead.

Yes, it might seem to us now that Jesus is separated from us, or that He is delaying His response to our urgent prayers. However, keep in mind how and why He withdraws periodically in Scripture, and what He accomplishes afterward. Even today, as we have read, what does Jesus do when He arrives on the scene in Bethany? With the profession of Martha’s deep faith, and the absolute power of Christ over life and death, Jesus raises Lazarus from the darkness of the tomb, and a dead man walks!

If Christ can do this, why can’t He save us from the darkness of our fear? Why can’t He save us from the darkness of our sin? Why can’t He bring someone out of addiction, or depression, or confusion? Why can’t He bring dry bones to live in front of the prophet’s eyes? This is the Lord of Life we are talking about. Jesus, who is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

God has given each one of us a promise – which is foreshadowed in Ezekiel’s vision and in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. We are promised eternal life. Through our Baptism and our faith we lay claim to that promise – a promise that will take us out of the depths of any sickness, any fear, any depression, any addiction, any thing, and bring us into the glory of everlasting life. St. Paul echoes that promise today: If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.This Spirit is the same who was at work over those bones, it is the same that was at work in Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb, and it is the same that you and I have received through faith at our Baptism. That Spirit bears a promise!

“I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”

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