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Allison Ink Slingers

Keeping Our Sympathy

And Jesus Wept Statue

During a thirty minute wait in a physician assistant’s office a few weeks ago, I had enough time to read all of the informational pamphlets on a dozen different drugs and conditions. When my provider excused herself to consult with one of the doctors, I learned all about unpronounceable medications and rheumatoligical conditions. There is a drug that inserts itself into DNA and strangles cell replication and another drug that doctors don’t even know how it works for autoimmune diseases, just that it does. And there is a condition so odd that it is called a phenomenon. One of the last-ditch treatments for this Raynaud’s Phenomenon, when blood flow to the hands and feet is severely reduced, is nerve surgery called a sympathectomy. The nearby nerves, named sympathetic, that control the blood vessels in the hands and feet are cut in order to “interrupt their exaggerated response.” I understand that the surgery strips away troublesome nerves around the dangerously constricting blood vessels, but the word “sympathectomy” sounds dreadful. I wonder if some of our personal sympathy is being cut out of us these troublesome days.

The word is defined as “feelings of sorrow for someone else’s misfortune” or “understanding between people.” And it seems that every time I open up a newspaper (Yes, we still receive a real paper in a tube by our driveway; it’s good for the kids to run up there and read the headlines before flipping to the comics and fun page!) or scroll through news websites, there is horror and sorrow: Syria, ISIS, our own cities and campuses. It’s easy to shake my head and keep flipping the paper while in my comfortable kitchen, but I must not. I must not ignore sympathy. I must nurture my uncomfortable feelings of sorrow for others’ misfortune and strive to understand others’ plights. When an ambulance or police car zips past us on the road, we all cross ourselves as a quick prayer; “Help them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I’m trying to do the same when reading news stories.

God has sympathy for us. He became one of us, uniting himself with humanity. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).” God, in the person of Jesus, pitched his tent (dwelt) with us like the traveling tabernacle of old. It was the architectural expression of God’s presence with Israel; Jesus is the human expression of God’s presence with us. In the Nicene Creed, written in AD 325 even before the canon of the New Testament was finally accepted, we affirm, “For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” The point of a creed is that it is truth about God. The word credo means “I believe;” I believe this truth, these sacred words, this reality. The reminder of truth is solid grounding in the uncertainties and problems of life. He came down from heaven for us and our salvation; halleluia! Yes, I believe.

And Jesus has sympathy for us. While on the earth, he was moved by people’s suffering. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34).” Later on in the chapter is the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He had sorrow for their misfortune; he understood. Even though he knew what was going to happen when his friend Lazarus died (John 11), “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” at the sisters’ weeping and pain. Here is where we find a favorite verse for children to memorize, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” He actually wept. According to Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

crucifixFrom our catechism, “Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and his passion, and gave himself up for each one of us. The son of God loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Jesus’ Sacred Heart, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that… love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings with out exception (#478).

So we can read the news and embrace those feelings of sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. We can draw close to Jesus, who understands and loves all human beings without exception. Let us not cut away our sympathies (except for Raynaud’s Phenomenon).

 

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Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth

The Importance of Friendship

The Importance of Friendship
The Importance of FriendshipThere have been many times in my life that I have felt like I was a ship at sea struggling against the storm, wondering where land and safety might be. The storm raging around me, I was lost. The waves crashing again and again, I was in danger of sinking. Had it not been for the lighthouse upon the shore I may have never found my way to safety.

I believe that God puts people in our paths at just the right time. They are lighthouses to help guide us and lead us to safe shores. Friends can help ground us, help save our sanity, help us see the good in life, and help carry us through the most difficult times of our lives. While there are many in our world who believe they must stay guarded at all times, there are others who know and understand the beauty of developing and cherishing deep friendships.

I would dare to say that most of us have at least one person we call a friend, some of us have even more people we call friends. But do we truly believe that friendship is important? Do we only acknowledge our friends when we need something or do we make time for them even when it seems we don’t have much time to spare?

The Importance of FriendshipFriendship is important. Christ knew this well. We remember in the story of Mary and Martha that Jesus corrected Martha who was angry with Mary for simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and was not helping her with the preparations. Jesus simply says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

How often do we neglect our friendships because we have too many other things to do?

We read later that Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, also a friend of Jesus, had died. Jesus didn’t go immediately to him when He found out that Lazarus was ill. He didn’t go immediately so that His followers could believe in Him when they witnessed Him raise Lazarus from the dead. While Christ knew what was going to happen, as He asked Mary where they had taken Lazarus, something astounding happens… the Scriptures tell us, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

The Importance of FriendshipChrist, who knew that His friend would be raised from the dead, was overcome with emotion and wept. Did He weep because His friend had died? Did He weep for those who mourned Lazarus? Did He weep for all of us? Perhaps it’s not important why Christ wept but rather it is important that He was there for those He loved and He showed true, deep emotion. His mere presence brought hope, but I imagine His gift of emotion {of love} helped others understand the true value of friendship.

How often do we hide our love and guard our emotions, unwilling to show our true hearts and souls to our friends, and unwilling to be completely there for them in their darkest hour?

It is only later in John15 that we come to understand Christ’s true teaching about the importance of friendship. He tells us, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” While His friends could not understand the gravity of the teaching, Jesus knew that He would model this type of love and friendship by laying down His life for all of us. Soon the entire world would come to understand what true friendship was.

This is a difficult teaching to accept. What does it mean? Are we each called to die for our friends? Maybe the situation will arise that we will be called to make this ultimate sacrifice, but more than likely we will never be asked to do so. Instead, perhaps we are being called to “die to self” and to put others’ needs ahead of our own. We are being called to voluntarily serve one another. We are asked to set aside our selfish desires to be there heart and soul for our friends, especially in their darkest hours.

How often do we fail to die to ourselves so that our friends may live?

Friendship is important. Christ showed us not only how to be a friend but what is expected of us as friends. When we treat our friends well, when we place their lives above our own, we show that we value Jesus’ friendship. It is important that we choose our friends wisely and that we treat our friends well. Our friendships have the ability to help us heal; help us find the safety of the shore, and help lead us to Christ.

Are you neglecting your friendships? If so, today is a wonderful day to begin anew and to reconnect. What is holding you back?

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. ~Henri Nouwen

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Bible End of life Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

Jesus Wept

raising lazarusYesterday we read in the Gospel of John the story of Lazarus’ death. We read that when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Both his sisters tell Jesus that had He been there Lazarus would have never died. Jesus replies first to Martha, “He will rise again… I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” and then to Mary, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Mary and Martha (and all those who were present) were blessed that day to witness the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. What a tremendous gift they were given- they believed and were able to witness firsthand Christ’s tremendous power to heal even those who have died!

But what about us- how are we to have faith in times that seem so desperate? In times where our loved ones are facing death or perhaps have died will we be immediately rewarded with a miracle like Mary and Martha were rewarded? Most likely we won’t see that kind of miracle. But that doesn’t mean that our faith in Christ’s healing and love will not be rewarded… quite the contrary in fact! Christ tells us over and over again in the Gospels that when we believe in Him and live in Him that we will never die. Of course our earthly bodies will die but our souls will go on to live forever with Him! That is quite the reward indeed! We are not made to live here. Our lives here are only temporary. We were made for Heaven. We were made to live with God. The reward that we stand to inherit is so great that we can only imagine how amazing it will be!

If this is the case then why do we fear death? We know that Christ has promised us an eternity with Him so why do we worry about the afterlife so much? I think this is because while we know what is promised we still have not seen with our own eyes that heavenly treasure that awaits us. We fear being without our loved ones. We know that we will feel loneliness when our loved one leaves our side. We fear God will find fault in us that will keep us out of His loving embrace.  All our fears are completely rational and completely human. We cry, we worry, and we plead with God to provide us a miracle. We feel helpless and alone.

jesus weptIn this story of Lazarus we often miss a very important phrase that is essential to the story. It is often missed because of the miraculous events that follow but is equally important to the story. The passage reads, “Jesus wept.” A mere two words long and yet this sentence speaks volumes. Jesus, who was divine and who knew what awaits all of us in heaven, and knew that Lazarus would soon be raised, cried in pain with the sisters. He knew the desperation that Mary and Martha felt and he could sympathize with their feelings. His compassion for the women moved Him to tears.  There are other reasons that Christ wept outside of Lazarus’ tomb but I wish to focus on this aspect… this very human aspect.

Often we feel that we have to be strong in the face of death. We must hold in our emotions and not show how we truly feel, how much we are truly hurting. But when we look at this passage we can see that it is normal to grieve, even though we believe in everlasting life. It is normal to feel sadness and loneliness. It is normal to wonder if there was something else we could have done. It is normal to ask God for a miracle. It is normal to ask God why we didn’t receive that miracle. Christ, who dwelled in heaven alongside our Father before coming to earth to save us, wept for His friend. He wept for those who loved him. He wept for all of us. He shows us His very human nature… He shows us our human nature.

trustYesterday as I listened to our priest give his homily on the Gospel reading I was moved by something he said. He told us that if we are to be like Christ in all we do we must face death with humility and we must face death with radical trust. How right he is! We often only focus on how we should live our lives like Christ but we must also think about how we face death as well. Father Rafa reminded us that while many of us have faced the death of a loved one already we also will all face our own death eventually. How we handle death is just as important as how we handle life.

We are so blessed to have the story of Lazarus to reassure us of Christ’s saving grace. We are also blessed to have this story to reassure us of Christ’s humanity too. He was humble and compassionate. Christ shows us how much he loves us through His tears at Lazarus’ tomb and then again as He suffers on the cross and dies for our sins. Christ models for us how we should live our lives and how we should embrace our eventual deaths. The way He encounters and deals with death, both His friend’s death and His own, is just as our priest advised us to address death… with great humility and with radical trust.

I pray if you have lost someone or are facing the death of loved one you will look to Christ and hear His words, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”  Trust in Him and know that He understands your pain, your fears, and your loneliness. Believe in His words and know that like Lazarus we will each be raised up to new life with Him. Our death here is not final, there is more to come. We need to approach death with great humility and with radical trust. Christ has promised us life with Him. There is no greater gift than this.

resurrection and life