During the Lenten Season, we are immersed in rich scripture passages. Together, they weave threads of temptation and triumph, sin and forgiveness, mortality and everlasting life which offer an endearing image of Jesus. This Jesus offers the hope which bolsters our spirits and the friendship which endures throughout our earthly journeys. This Jesus demonstrates a keen understanding of the human condition in all that he says and does. This Jesus recognizes that God’s children are a wounded and pain-ridden people. This Jesus is impelled to do nothing less than to heal us and to replace our misery with peace.
The scriptures tell us of Jesus’ encounter with the woman from Samaria at Jacob’s well. Jesus did not need the water that the woman drew for him. It was she who thirsted for the waters of new life. Jesus responded by quenching her thirst and reviving her spirit that she might live her life to the fullest. John’s gospel (9:1-41) speaks of the man born blind. Since birth, this man’s very existence had been tied to sin. In the eyes of his neighbors, the man’s parents must have sinned terribly to prompt God to impose this affliction upon their son. This man was damaged goods, unworthy of the people’s concern. It is no wonder that those who saw the man after Jesus cured him failed to recognize him. Though they had passed him daily, they never took the time to look at him. It was Jesus who looked beyond his opaque eyes into the heart broken by a lifetime of isolation. Unable to ignore his need, Jesus revived his spirit that he might live.
Acutely aware of the sorrows that punctuated the lives of those around him, Jesus attended to them just as he attends to us. Our workplaces and our neighborhoods, our circles of friends and even our own families sometimes reflect the human condition in painful ways. Though the gospel writers enjoyed the luxury of reporting events that ended well, we continue to wonder how things will end for us. Two Lents ago, these sentiments welled up within me frequently during my sister’s battle with cancer. How often I asked what God could possibly have had in mind as my sister’s energy diminished. How helpless I felt each time I considered what more could be done to help her. How I pleaded for her cure and, eventually, her peaceful passing. During those fleeting moments when I convinced myself that God had turned a deaf ear to me, I rolled up my sleeves and did more. I did everything I could to make my sister’s life the best it could be. In my exacerbation, I rediscovered precisely what Jesus’ journey among us had taught me to do.
It occurs to me that Jesus might have entered human history in a much different form. He might have arrived in a powerful flurry, driving the evil and sorrow that touch our lives right out of the universe. Rather, Jesus came to us as a helpless infant who grew to love a family much like our own. Later, Jesus took that lesson to heart as he loved all whom he found in his path. Jesus knew firsthand the sorrows that touch each one of us, and he learned for himself the importance of the compassion of others when we are suffering. Jesus’ own compassion drove him to roll up his sleeves to do everything he could to make the lives of those around him what they were meant to be.
When my sister passed away, I found that the life and teachings of Jesus continue to be very much at work among us. Though I did not see the kindness in those dark Jewish eyes as the woman at the well and the man born blind saw it, I certainly felt its warmth. Though I have not seen my sister living out the new life which is hers, I have certainly sensed her amazing transformation in more ways than I can count. In the end, I have come to realize that my sister’s life had been exactly what God hoped it to be. In spite of my own bouts with foolishness, my life continues to unfold according to God’s plan as well.
Only three weeks remain in our Lenten journeys. It seems to me that the time has come to solidify our relationships with this Jesus who walks at our sides and who intends to remain until each of our journeys is completed. This Jesus recognizes that at times we are wounded and pain-ridden. This Jesus stays on to heal those wounds and to replace that pain with peace. This Jesus is with us for as long as our journeys take.
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