Never Alone (John 11:1-45)

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

One of the heaviest of feelings is the one of being alone. You hear it in the cry of an infant, and more generally you catch it in the forlorn look of any lonely person. John’s 11th chapter features some people who fall into that aloneness in an especially painful way, that is, the way of facing death. John  tells us of the death of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha and the good friend of Jesus. And this is not to mention the experience of Lazarus himself as he goes through his own passing.

This theme of aloneness runs through the readings and Church services for these next few Lenten weeks – leading up to the aloneness of Jesus himself as he suffers and dies on the cross. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, consolation of our Christian faith arises from our belief about what happens in the dying of Our Lord Jesus.

For one thing, Jesus actually does die, really goes through the experience every human eventually does of leaving this life. Paraphrasing one writer’s lyrical description (Elizabeth Johnson, Abounding in Kindness, p.111) “Jesus inhabits the inside of the isolating shell of death, and there brings his divine life into the closest contact with disaster. But right from that spot, the undergoing of death itself, he uncovers a gleam of light for all the others who suffer that darkness”– or in our terms, for all those who know that final aloneness.

Expressed in still another way, the all-loving God is with us all through our lives, but is especially near in the moment, the experience, of dying. And don’t we say just that in every Hail Mary, proclaiming that we are not alone, neither “now and at the hour of our death.”

This is to recognize that Jesus, God who took on our flesh, also took on our dying. Jesus, God with us, went through this universal experience of mortality. From the inside, God knows what it is to undergo death. But much more importantly, in solidarity with all of us he knows what it is to pass beyond death, to come to new and eternal life.

An Old Testament name for God, Emmanuel, says it best. Translated, “God with us,” it conveys God’s nearness not just through the ups and downs of our life, but even — and especially — through the aloneness of our death.

In these next few weeks before Easter, we’re challenged to allow the grace  and  truth of this solidarity (i.e., God with us in life and in death and then in new life) to sink in — and then let itself sink in ever further.

A while ago I came across a compressed description of the Blessed Trinity that echoes this comfort of our never being alone:
– God as Father — is for us.
– God as Son — accompanies us.
– God as Spirit — is within us and brings us to new and everlasting life.

In a letter to a grieving confrere, St. Vincent prays for just this consolation.. . . Comfort thy Servants whose trust is in Thee—bend our minds to thy Will, enlarge us with thy Grace. Sustain us with thy blessing until through the grave and gate of Death WE PASS TO OUR JOYFUL RESURRECTION.

(Volume: 3a | Page#: 26) added on 12/19/2014

1 Comment

  1. Joe Bellacosa

    Thank you, Fr. Tom
    & Deo Gratias,
    I liked the reflection of triple, easy-to-recite reassurance
    GOD – For, With & Within.
    Joe Bellacosa