Part 1: Let us go and die with him…
Today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45) is the longest of the year, after the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. There is so much to consider in this Gospel passage that it would be too much to try and cover it in one post, which is why I decided to divide this reflection in two parts. Today and tomorrow, I invite you to slip your feet in a pair of dusty sandals and place yourself on scene with the other characters in the Gospel. Identify with them, be one of them, and ask yourself, “Who am I in today’s Gospel?”
Today, we will focus more on St Thomas and the rest of the apostles. Tomorrow, we will pick up where we left off and consider this passage through the eyes of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus… and others on the scene. Make sure to put yourself on site as a participant along with them.
“The one you love is ill.”
Who is the one Jesus loves? That person is you! Each one of us is this person. Each one of us can put ourselves in Martha, Mary, Lazarus, or the Apostles’ shoes.
For that matter, it is hard to understand the divine pedagogy of Jesus sometimes, because first of all, no one can fill his shoes. Moreover, when we don’t have his vision of things, it is difficult to see how he can allow us to suffer and grieve – things that when we must endure them seem to last forever. Yet, there are times when Jesus shares a glimpse of his vision with us, and today’s Gospel presents us with one of those occasions.
Immediately, we see that the Apostles and Jesus are not on the same page when Jesus says,
“Let us go back to Judea…”
In retrospect, i.e., from our standpoint today, the disciples sound silly, but if we were to stand in their shoes, we’d see they are just talking common sense. So it must have been frustrating when Jesus responds with yet another allegory of darkness and light, which from their perspective does not seem to address the point they are trying to make.
God bless St Thomas, who says:
“Let us go and die with him!”
This is kind of like saying, “Whatever! Let’s just do what he says.” Yet the beautiful thing here is how he tries his best to identify with the Lord in all this, and little does he know how much his words show that he really does identify with him. That too will soon be revealed.
To the modern Bible reader, the Apostles’ attitude may seem a bit disrespectful. So, what’s the matter? Don’t you throw your arms up in the air and say “Whatever!” at close friends and family sometimes? Jesus and Thomas were intimate friends. I think this is why it is important to read the Gospel “on site,” as it were, to feel that relationship with Jesus that we are meant to have, which is a true, intimate friendship. And friends have their disputes sometimes.
Pope Francis recently urged that it is okay to grapple with God in prayer, and in fact it is the right thing to do, sometimes. The Apostles’ disposition of questioning the Lord is only natural. Very natural. Let’s not pretend that we are above our own petty nature when we bring our problems and issues before the Lord. He expects it from us, because after all, didn’t he make us this way?
It is a sign of trust to be frank with God. It is also a sign of trust to wait and see, which is what the apostles must do in this Gospel passage, for now.
Thus, they set out toward the unknown with anticipation and uncertainty in their hearts and minds. They are much like ourselves in this regard. We all must grapple with uncertainty in our lives. Trust and hope in the Lord, who one day will make all things clear and satisfy the intense longing in our hearts for answers.