I had a conversation with someone the other day who acknowledged that, in her prayer life, she has always felt close to Jesus but has always "had a hard time with God." In those sorts of conversations, as a priest and/or a spiritual director, I try to hide my instinctive heresy-search-and-destroy reactions, but this one, I could tell, crept out onto my face. Actually, I winced.
Earlier this week I e-mailed my parents an article from NPR that caught my attention: "It's Never Too Soon To Plan Your 'Driving Retirement.'" Using the story of a 94-year-old woman who decided to give up driving on her 90th birthday, the article explores this one particular challenge of getting older. In sending it to my parents (who are in their mid-sixties), I was mostly joking. Still, though, there's a little bit of interest—though not at all concern yet—behind my sharing that article with them.
What's your favorite part of the Lazarus story? Is it the strange comfort Jesus offers Mary and Martha in their moment of grief: "Your brother will rise again"? Or is it Jesus' refusal to heed the warnings of the stench-filled tomb? Or maybe you focus on the comfort we are offered by Jesus, who wept at the tomb of his friend. For me, though, it's the very end of the story I like best.
Sunday is All Saints' Day, and, many churches will read the Roll of Remembrance, which includes the names of the faithful who have died in the past year. Yes, I know there's a separate occasion for that on November 2, when the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed is observed. Yes, I understand that confusing those who have died in the past year with all the saints who have gone before undermines our ability to focus and properly celebrate either. Yes, I know the Episcopal Church has an underdeveloped theology of sainthood. But, sweeping all of that aside for a moment, when I read John 11:32–22, I find myself wondering just how big of a hope we are celebrating.