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Experiencing anxiety when someone we love is ill can be extremely difficult. As faithful people, often our first (and best) response is to seek the Lord’s help. Waiting for an answer to that prayer can also be anxiety-producing. It must have seemed so confusing to Mary and Martha, knowing how much Jesus cared for their brother, that he would delay coming to his assistance.
Jesus loved the family from Bethany, but he loved the Father more. Not only did he know all would be well, but more importantly, it was also to be an opportunity to glorify Him in the delayed response. In the reading from Romans, St. Paul reminds us we are not just flesh but also spirit. Jesus demonstrates through his response to Lazarus’ illness and death the importance of answering prayers ordered to renew, strengthen, and heal the spirit over physical healing. Though He promises Lazarus’ illness will not end in death, and it does not …eventually, Lazarus, like all of us, does indeed die. Jesus’ discussions with both Mary and Martha in today’s Gospel illuminate how His answer to our prayers should first and foremost lead us to deeper faith and hope in Heaven.
Remember, Martha is the sister upset, during Jesus’ previous visit to Bethany, that her sister is sitting at his feet instead of helping with the work of serving. She is taught, then, by the Master, of the need to balance our service and work with making time for the essential work of prayer. She’s taken his words to heart. Martha demonstrates her strength of faith within the anxiety and grief of her brother’s illness and death. Although devastated at the loss of her brother, she clings to her faith in the resurrection.
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