The Father has prepared a wedding banquet with food and drink that satisfies our deepest hunger. The Father begs us to come to the feast. He has prepared the choicest food and has saved the best wine for last. The food at this banquet will never run out and we will never hunger or thirst again. He implores us “come to the feast.”
I love, love, love the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The Lord often reminds me of it when I’m trying to pretend that everything is okay (like he doesn’t know everything!). I can’t tell you how many times in prayer I’ve felt the gentle nudging to be honest with Him but insist that I’m “fine”. In these times I’m invited to have the honesty of Mary and Martha – to get angry, because God can handle it! Martha and Mary didn’t meekly say, “oh it’s okay Jesus, we know this is for the best and we trust you.” No, they were not afraid to show that they were angry and confused: “what the heck Jesus! You go around doing all these great miracles but you can’t stop our brother, who you claimed to love, from dying. Some Messiah you are!”
I think the key to understanding this story is the fact that Mary and Martha never lost their faith. They believed with their whole hearts that he could have healed their brother and Martha even says, “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
These two sisters believed that Jesus could do anything, they just didn’t realize “anything” included raising men from the dead. This is something they couldn’t imagine. Our God does more than we can ask or imagine.
But the part that we still struggle with is why Jesus let Lazarus die in the first place. Because he loved them. Logically speaking, this is completely insane. Let’s talk about my ways are not your ways. Jesus even goes so far as to say, “for your sake I am glad I was not there”. Can you imagine the disciples shock and confusion over this?
Jesus allows Lazarus to die because in the end, it is better for everyone. I’ve wondered if this was to give them all hope during Jesus’s crucifixion. They must have thought: He raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps He will rise also. God allows a brief period of pain and mourning, to make the new day that much more brilliant.
One thing I learned in convent was that I hate suffering (okay who really likes it?). But I really struggle to see the value in it, which I think is true to most of us. We believe in a God whose plan to save us involved letting His Son die in utter agony by being crucified. I know we’ve all struggled with the questions “why suffering?” and “why do good things happen to bad people?” Maybe you’ve even tried to explain redemptive suffering to others and think you really get it. But deep in each of our hearts we all ask, “why?”
Why does God allow so much evil? Why do little children get shot, abused and horribly mistreated? Free will, we like to throw around. Is that a satisfactory answer? God could just stop it all if He wanted. And then what would draw us close to Him?
Jesus the Bridegroom. The very words send a thrill through my heart. The sisters heard me go on and on about the topic, but you, my lucky readers, are a whole new audience!
Thanks to my time in the convent, I’ve been given a love for scripture and new eyes to see its depth. The top two things that have opened up scripture for me are:
- Reading scripture with Jewish eyes.
- Seeing that Jesus is always the Bridegroom.
Today’s Gospel is the perfect example of this. In the Old Testament, whenever a man and woman met at a well, they ended up getting married. Another key piece of information is that the Jews and Samaritans were “divorced” from one another. The Israelites had split into the Northern and Southern kingdoms, with Samaria in the North and Jerusalem in the South. So when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and asks her, “give me a drink”, what He’s really saying is, “give me your hand.”
What really turned me on to all this is Dr. Brant Pitre and his book Jesus the Bridegroom. I strongly recommend it to all. The most important thing I want to convey is that Jesus is a personal bridegroom to each one of us, not just of the Church in general, and we experience this best through prayer. When I learned how to pray according to the Ignatian method of prayer I felt like I had never prayed before. This involves imagining the scene with all your senses and placing yourself in it. Imagine yourself as the Samaritan woman. Jesus asks you for a drink, you ask him for living water. What are your “husbands”, those things that you are ashamed of, that you think make you unworthy? He already knows and He is “the one”, the Christ, the Bridegroom.