The most difficult question for any spiritual counsellor is “Why”. Five years ago a young mother called to my house distraught with the news she had received from her Doctor’s diagnosis – breast cancer. The prognosis was discouraging. She knew that in all probability her life would be drastically shortened. She spoke to me about her two small children and said “Father, Why”. Thanks to medical personnel who cared for her, she has been cured of her illness.
Life is fraught with mystery. Everywhere the question “Why” raises its head. Why war, why disease, why poverty, why human suffering and heartbreak manifested in a thousand different ways. All these are questions to which I do not have an answer or as far as I know, nobody does. So instead of speculating about “Why” it may be easier to focus on why we do not understand.
In this weekend’s Gospel we read the story of Lazarus who was a friend of Jesus. His sisters Martha and Mary sent for Jesus because Lazarus was sick. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus was dead and buried. The story has a happy ending, as Jesus exercised his authority over death and called his friend back to the land of the living. In this story we have elements of mystery. The premature death of a young man. The heartbreak of the family who were hurt and baffled. They like us could not understand.
One reason we have trouble understanding, is because God’s timetable is different from ours. Martha and Mary had sent Jesus an urgent appeal for help. They needed him immediately and they believed in his power and willingness to help, otherwise they would not have sent for him. His timing was off. He seemed to be late in arriving. “Lord if you had been here our brother would not have died”. Their concept of time almost made a shipwreck of their faith.
If first century people had a time problem with regard to faith, how much more have we in the twenty first century. We literally live by the clock. Everything seems to move at a hectic pace. Our roads have signposts with minimum as well as maximum speed limits. Deadlines loom. “Our days are too short”. “I have been up only an hour and I am already too hours behind”. These are some expressions that we hear and use every day. We do carry the same hectic pace in our spiritual lives. We pray for something and we not only make the request, we set the delivery day. We pray for a burden to be lifted or a wrong to be righted or a dream to be fulfilled and if God does not answer our faith begins to waiver.
We must understand that God’s ways are not our ways. We operate in the realm of time, God operates in the realm of eternity. It is a good thing for all of us that God works by his own methods. We may not always understand, but we can always trust God to do things his own way. Fr John