There was a sign in the window of our neighborhood shoe repair shop. It read simply “Time wounds all heels.” Obviously it is a play on “Time heals all wounds.” Both are true but the latter can take much longer than the former.
We all have probably had our eye poked with a stick or finger and that little seeing-ball can hurt and weep for a long time. The heart gets hurt figuratively even more often and can take years to heal and trusting.
These days of Lent, as we pray our way towards the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, we can also pray with the graces of resurrecting from the tombs of our hearts’ pains. There are no easy methods of praying with pains and losses. We cannot write their names on a sheet of paper and then burn them all away -- whoosh, gone! Those hurts and disappointments find comfortable residences in our emotional living rooms. They can become permanent guests and for various reasons, we might grow quite accustomed to their company.
As we bring our hearts and souls and smarting eyes to the Eucharist, we can pray with memories, events and persons and see if there is the grace of eviction available. Those pains which brought us to our knees in past times, can come with us to our knees again to perhaps experience a love that can replace the empty or broken in our hearts and souls.
Ezekiel, in our First Reading, is speaking of a vision he had. He is speaking to the disheartened people of Israel in captivity, away from their promised lands. These verses follow immediately upon the famous “Dry Bones” vision where the prophet calls upon the “Breath” or “Spirit” of God to bring life and spirit together as the bones are rejoined. We hear a promise meant to bring joy and hope back into their lives.
Two points of hope are stressed with a comforting introduction, “My people” proclaims that God has not disowned Israel while they are in captivity. As the bones in the vision will be rebodied, so their graves will be opened and the dead shall rise. They will be returning to their land, their identifying holy ground of the ancient promises. To affirm the promise, the Lord says that “This is my story and I am going to stick with it.” God is professing fidelity along with the double promise.
Last week we heard about the man who was blind from birth and Jesus healed him “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus is told about the illness of His good friend, Lazarus. John has Jesus saying the same thing, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Stated simply, Jesus does these “signs” or “works” so that seeing them, people will come to believe that He is the One who has been sent.
Seeing is a means to seeing beyond what is seen, we call that faith. Recovery of sight, recovery of life go together, they are the same work or sign. Glory for John is revelation or visibility. We do not believe within a vacuum, and God has come as the Light to enlighten us through the presence of the God made Flesh.
Again John uses the theme of light, by having Jesus talk about walking during the day and stumbling at night, and at night, without the light, stumbling is real. John keeps working his basic themes through all the chapters.
Lazarus was dead and again apparently the impossible situation presents a drama through which Jesus brings resolution. Can a man born blind be given sight, can a dead man rise? The answer is clear, but the physical is a bit symbolic. There is more to seeing than seeing; there is more to living than being brought back from death. Jesus says to Martha that believing in Him is what life is and those who do believe will never die. When Jesus asks her if she believes, she says simply, “Yes Lord.” At the end of the narrative we hear, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what He had done began to believe in Him.” All John’s stories end with such statements of belief. The man who was blind, the woman at the well, those who were fed in the desert, all had to see the “signs” and surrender to what was really present beyond and yet within those gestures.
To be honest, I personally am glad I have never witnessed a “miracle” in the ordinary sense of the word. Miracles would somehow force me to the leap, the surrender, the believing. I do not want to be sure any more. I have witnessed signs which I have taken as hints or “come-ons”, but they also could just be what they outwardly appear. I would choose a more free response, based on these hints and let go of my human arrogance which demands the security of knowing clearly. I would choose to be at the Wedding Feast at Cana and the water remained just water. I would like to have watched Jesus taken the five loaves and two fish and give them away and just say that there isn’t any more. I would be with Mary and Martha while Jesus weeps over His good friend’s death and walk with them home to talk about the good life of Lazarus. I would be the Man Born Blind and want to come to faith as a way of seeing, rather than being given sight and then believe. I do not believe in Jesus because of miracles! I believe in Jesus because, well, just because of who I find myself to be and Who I find and how I find God to be in my mind and soul.
Everybody believes in something, there are not any unbelievers. As we say, atheism is a God-given option.
“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” Ps. 130
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