And Jesus wept (John 11:35).
By Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S.
These words, often noted as the shortest verse of the Bible, remind us of something very important Jesus’ emotions. He has already told his disciples and Martha that Lazarus would rise. He clearly knew what he was going to do and yet when confronted with the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he wept. His heart expressed the truth of his love for his friend.
This should not surprise us. How many times does Scripture tell us that he was moved with pity when faced with someone’s suffering? Does Scripture not tell us that it was out of compassion that he fed the crowd in the desert? Didn’t his anger overflow in the face of the vendors taking advantage of people in the Temple? Jesus had a full emotional life, and so when finally confronted with the tomb of his friend, he wept.
During this time of pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and toilet paper hoarding we experience all sorts of emotions: fear of getting sick, anxiety over limitations on our activities, anger when we see others flaunting public health orders, and even sadness over having to miss Mass. All of these feelings are real and appropriate.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of two very important things in the face of the current crisis. First is that no matter how bad things may be, God is in control. God’s love for us is stronger than any problem we might be facing. Yes, even as we stay home, worship via livestream, and practice “social distancing,” God is ever near. That doesn’t mean that he’s going to make this trial go away. It is a cross we must carry, just as Martha and Mary had to carry the cross of their grief for those four days.
And Jesus himself grieved, knowing full well that he would bring Lazarus back to life, he still wept out of love for his friend. Therein lies the second lesson of this Gospel. As we run through the gamut of emotions Jesus is right there with us, not just in this moment of crisis but all the time. His love for us is so great that when we cry, he cries with us. And when we laugh, he laughs with us. So deep is his love for us that in the midst of whatever we are feeling, he is there feeling it with us.
That can be particularly difficult to remember in this time of no public Masses, and for most Catholics of no reception of Holy Communion. To be separated from Christ in this very real and physical way has been a hardship. It has angered some and saddened others. I can only imagine what Jesus is feeling as he watches his Church journey through this moment. I can only imagine the sadness Jesus is feeling knowing that we are unable to receive Him in the Eucharist.
Jesus is journeying through this moment of crisis with us. He is feeling what we are feeling and he wants only to raise us up. He is here, with us, right now. His only desire is to love us and to give us his grace. And just as He brought Lazarus back to life, he will bring us back. But first He weeps with us.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S., is the Missionaries’ vocation director.