Yesterday our little hamster, named Philly, died. We managed to care for him about 18months before he went the way of all hamsters. Our kids, at least the 7 and 6 year olds, grieved for several hours- a long time for kids to acknowledge their grief. Our 4 year old didn't seem to even notice Philly's passing until, of course, we buried Philly in our yard.
My 7 year old son, Zach, took it the hardest. He lost his appetite and felt sick to his stomache with grief. When I put dead Philly in a plastic ziplock bag, Zach began crying again. I said something insensitive and stupid like "Don't cry, Philly is okay." Zach shot back, "Philly's dead, how can he be okay?" Good question. I was so desperate to avoid the pain of the situation that I denied it. Zach was willing to face the pain without denying its severity.
In today's reading from John 11, we find Jesus not avoiding but going into the pain of the human condition. His friend Lazarus has died and Jesus feels the pain of those who were affected most by the death, namely Mary and Martha. All throughout this story we are struck by Jesus' ability to sympathize and empathize with those in pain. While he does talk about the hope of resurrection, he avoids sugar-coating the suffering of the human condition like some all-too-happy televangelist or like me with my kids at the death of Philly.
Today, I will love Christ by allowing myself to feel for and absorb the pain of the human condition in a manner that causes me to act on behalf of the Marys and Marthas all around me.