“This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it” (Jn 11:4).
The entire life and work of Christ is between the two poles of the Incarnation, which we remember in the Annunciation celebration of March 25, and the Paschal Mystery, which we soon celebrate during Holy Week beginning on Holy Thursday. Throughout His life and ministry Jesus repeatedly shows us His power over all things, and in this seventh sign in the Gospel of John, He shows His power over death. It was the Original Sin of Adam that brought illness and death to the entire world and all its inhabitants. Through this Gospel story we see the necessary reality and mystery of tension in the spiritual life.
What do I mean by the mystery of tension? It is the mystery of God coming into our weakness to make us strong.
This mystery is what propels us to be better, to live life to the fullest! Consider an analogy: swimming for a world record. The goal of the “red line” (see video) is always before the swimmer. The swimmer does everything in his power physically and mentally to prepare himself to swim his best — the world record is always in front of him! This analogy is a sign for us of what a determined human being can accomplish; yet, once the world record is reached, there is always another one to be achieved.
Life in Christ is no different. Jesus performed seven signs in the Gospel of John, each building on the other, each fulfilling a prophecy and/or a feast of the Old Testament. Through these signs He shows that He alone is the fulfillment of all of our hopes and dreams, the healer of all our emotional hurts and physical maladies. He has even conquered death.
When Jesus learned about the illness of Lazarus He said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it” (Jn 11:4). This can be compared to the “Happy Fault” of Adam that the Church proclaims in the Exsultet, “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”
My prayer for today is to participate in God’s glory by inviting Him into my weaknesses, my sorrow over world events, my lack of faith and hope, and my lack of love for others. These illnesses within me are not unto death. God is glorified through them as I implore Him to heal me, to open my heart to His love, to turn my sorrow into JOY!