The film, “Soul Surfer” debuted in box offices throughout the country this weekend. It tells the story of Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer who lost an arm in a vicious shark attack in 2003. The movie shows how her faith in God played a major role in recovering from her injury and returning to championship form in the sport she loves. Her faith also helped her see her loss not as a handicap but as a means of inspiring others.
In the gospel readings over the past two Sundays we have read about two men facing handicaps and how faith transformed them. Last week it was the blind beggar and this week it was Lazarus, who has a terminal illness that eventually robs him of his life.
In the case of the man born blind, the disciples ask Jesus if it was because of his sin or that of his parents that he was so afflicted. Jesus responds that his blindness was not a punishment but an opportunity to have the glory of God show forth in his life. Once he has recovered his sight, the blind man then gives us a lesson on what it means to see and believe. His healing becomes a sign pointing to Jesus as the Light of the World.
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus receives the news that his friend, Lazarus, is sick. He responds: “This sickness is not to end in death; rather it is for God’s glory.” Though Lazarus does succumb to his illness, Jesus raises him from the dead to show us that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Lazarus’ death is not a punishment but a sign pointing to Jesus who brings the dead to life again.
Each of us has a situation in life that we think keeps us from serving God better. If only I lived in the ‘50’s. If only my husband went to church with me. If only I were not sick. If only I didn’t have children. If only I had a better education. If only I didn’t work with such jerks. We think that if God would just change those circumstances, we would be better able to do His will.
In fact, the opposite is the case. There is no circumstance we can find ourselves in wherein it is impossible to do God’s will. In fact, it is His will that we are where we are. He wants us to endeavor to live good and holy lives in the midst of people who are indifferent or even hostile to our faith so that we might be an example to them. He desires that we struggle with our personal weaknesses and failures so that we can learn to rely on Him. And if there are relationships or circumstances in our lives which need to change, He will give us the grace and the opportunity to change them. But we can never use them as an excuse not to live good and holy lives.
Whatever we are struggling with today can be a vehicle by which God’s glory can shine forth through us.
If Jesus can give sight to the blind and raise the dead, what else can His Spirit at work in us accomplish?