I had thought it odd for the longest while that Jesus would say that he was going to go away. He had risen from the dead recently so couldn’t he stick around? On pilgrimage in the Holy Land, in a small church which has a marbleized footprint on the ground commemorating the last step of Jesus as he was lifted into the sky, I was still confounded.
In the Gospel we hear Jesus say to us, “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you…” This gospel is striking during our current times. In a time of confusion, suffering, uncertainty, and for many isolation and loneliness, God the Father is actively caring for us and telling each of us, you are not alone.
Promises have meaning and can be taken seriously when they come from God. In uncertain times, there is great comfort in the assurance of faith. In knowing the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which provides the means to how a heart can stay untroubled.
Do you ever feel that life is unfair? Is your faith in God still strong in the midst of hardship, confusion, anxiety and suffering? Can you love a God who leaves you with your suffering? If we look to the passion of Christ, we clearly see a God who does not eradicate or sidestep injustice and great suffering, but embraces them.
St. Luke presents Cleopas and his companion fleeing Jerusalem after the death and burial of Jesus and, although they had heard the testimony of the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead, their disappointment and grief would not allow them to believe such an amazing story. Their despair is captured in one simple but profound statement: “We had hoped…”
John tells us that Jesus shows himself to the apostles, “despite the locked doors.” John is not just referring here to the heavy wooden doors of their hiding place. He is talking about the closed doors of their hearts. Jesus doesn’t wait until they calm down or get perspective on the situation. Rather, he breaks through the door of their fear announcing the good news that he is alive.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons says that, “The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death.” Monastic spirituality has embraced this preparation in many concrete ways because of the understanding that death is not a finality, but rather a passageway into eternal life!
This Lent, we’ve been called to give up far more than most had planned. We’ve been called to renew our hope and trust in God, who sees beyond earthly suffering not as a spectator, but as the one who took on flesh to feel deeply the pangs of human suffering, in order to redeem us. We are realizing God’s plans were not our plans, and His plans will bear so much more fruit.
Feeling anxious when someone we love becomes ill is normal. Turning to Jesus for help is wise. Waiting for an answer can be difficult. It must have seemed so confusing to Mary and Martha, knowing how much Jesus cared for their brother, that he would delay coming to his assistance. Yet, He had an even greater plan in mind.
Seeing is much more than just a function of our eyes. We can look at something with clear vision but not really see it. Often what we think we see is colored by our prejudices, assumptions and our needs. We think we are seeing clearly but we are not. Allowing God to restore our sight so that we can truly see is a worthy goal for our Lenten journey.
If we keep the themes of Baptism and discipleship in mind as we consider the value of fasting and sacrifice, we quickly realize that fasting isn’t about just giving up something we enjoy. The point of fasting is that we give up something that we enjoy to help us pay better attention to our deeper hungers and desires.
In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration we discover how we progress in the spiritual life: by embracing adversity, by looking upon the glorified face of Christ, and by going down the mountain to proclaim what we have seen to others.