Reflection: Jesus the Empath

21 March 2021|Thomas Doran

“Jesus wept.” Most striking is not this verse’s brevity but its profundity. How could our God and King cry? As our leader, isn’t He supposed to be strong, confident, and composed when faced with difficulty? Instead, He is “perturbed” by the death of Lazarus. This Gospel moment gives great insight into the nature of God. Our God does not sit stoic in a lofty and detached throne. Rather, He descends into our suffering. He feels unsettled and anxious by our pain. He weeps where we weep. Our King is a sensitive King, the empath who enters into our darkness, which in turn, raises us up into His light.

Today, I imagine that God is perturbed by the deaths of thousands of migrants and refugees. Since 2014, at least 34,532 people have died along global migration routes according to the IOM. Above, a man lies in distress after US military respond to a sinking refugee vessel off the coast of Libya. This struggling migrant bound to a stretcher looks like the dead Lazarus bound hand and foot in today’s Gospel. But Christ does now allow Lazarus to remain dead and tied up! He frees Lazarus into New Life! The resurrection Christ offers Lazarus is the resurrection Christ offers all of us. When we seek out Jesus in prayer, He unties us from our own burial bands, releasing us into His Light and Love. Just as Jesus unties Lazarus from death and suffering, He unties all of us from our own sin and darkness.

For today’s prayer, perhaps you can imitate today’s Psalmist. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice!” Now is an opportunity to cry out to God in your own voice using your own words. As you look into your own inner depths, what do you see, hear, or feel? Can you articulate it in your own words? If so, cast these words out into His existence. Are any words, intuitions, or feelings returned? Some of these may be God, some the evil spirit, and some yourself. Take them to a spiritual director or read here to discern. This inner dialogue is the substance of a personal relationship with God. It is the encounter with the Father, the Creator of your imagination.

Thomas Doran is a Jesuit novice from Omaha, Nebraska. He is working with JRS/USA as a part of Jesuit formation called “Long Experiment.” Thomas will share weekly reflections during Lent. Click here to see his reflection rom last week.