“Lord, if you had been here, my brother [and my sister] would not have died.”
John 11: 32
I had prayed for James Foley, the American journalist who had been abducted by ISIS in Syria. And for Kayla Mueller, the American human rights worker who had been volunteering in Syria with Doctors Without Borders. When I heard the news that they had been killed, I felt like my own brother and sister had died. “Lord, if you had been here . . .” Why does our all powerful and all loving God permit such evil to exist?
God gives us free will to choose goodness over darkness. Some choose the darkness and as a result bad things — evil things — happen. The consequences of those choices create a nightmare for us. But in God’s reality they represent only a microsecond in time compared to the eternity that awaits us.
Look at Sunday’s Gospel: Lazarus lay dead in a tomb for four days. His sisters cannot understand how their best friend Jesus, the miracle worker, could have let it happen. In the end Jesus brings Lazarus back to life and those four days of sorrow become a distant, faded memory compared to the joy of being reunited.
And that is how it will be for us. The pain felt by Martha and Mary is like the pain we experience in dealing with the presence of evil in our world. But in God’s eye it is temporary — like the four days that Lazarus lay dead in the tomb. There is so very much more that God has waiting for us.
The cross, the symbol of our faith, is God’s answer to the problem of evil. In the center of the cross, in the center of the pain and the suffering, we find God in human form. The message of the cross is hope. It tells us that we are not alone, that God is with us in the pain and the suffering; and someday it will all make sense, there will be a resurrection.
And all the people we have lost in our lives, perhaps our parents, perhaps our children; all those who have been dear to us; and all the James Foleys and Kayla Muellers will share with us in the joy of God’s presence for all eternity.
In the face of the evil we are confronted with each day, let us be at peace in the knowledge that God is always with us, holding our hand, leading us to a place where there will be no more pain, no more suffering and no more darkness.
5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on Amazon.com:
Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministry