Finding God on Gannon’s Campus

As I began to reflect on this week’s column, I found it very difficult to process the events that we have encountered the last several days.

The death of Jason Wahl, a classmate of mine, has impacted my life in ways that words cannot describe adequately.

The day went on and I was trying to process the death of Jason when I received a text that a student who graduated last year, Amber Vos, 31, had been killed at about 9 a.m. Saturday in a vehicle accident.  I talked with Amber on a daily basis prior to her graduation from Gannon and the two deaths in less than a 24-hour period is very difficult to deal with. I find solace in going to our chapel during times when there seem to be no answers.

To process the tragic loss requires a lot of time to be still.  This can happen in the company of people; to be still opens the heart to the movement of the Spirit.

When I sat in silence I prayed with the Gospel of St. John, the 11th chapter – the story of the raising of Lazarus.  The beginning is a beautiful illustration of the intimacy that our Lord has and his deep concern for us and how death is not the end for Christians.

The familiar reading is a kind of foreshadowing of Jesus’ own resurrection, and if we also have faith, it tells of ours too.

Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and Lazarus was her brother.  The sisters sent word to Jesus: “Master, the one you love is ill.”  Think about that one second, “the one you love is ill.” What is this illness? Jesus already knew the answer.

Jesus goes on to reply, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Thomas, called Didymus, is mentioned in here and it is by no accident.  Does that name ring a bell? It should if you remember this week’s Gospel.  Thomas is called the doubter and is reluctant to believe in Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus appeared to the other apostles when Thomas was not present and it is because of this precise verse that Thomas refused to believe.

Jesus does not respond immediately to the request to go to Lazarus and when he does two days have passed.  The other disciples recall they were subject to extreme hostility in Judea. In fact, they said, “Rabbi, they just tried to stone you there, and you want to go back?”

Jesus told the disciples that Lazarus had indeed died and he was going to wake him.  Then comes Thomas’ statement, “Let us also go to die with him.” Thomas doesn’t sound like a coward to me.  He sounds strong.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”

The next part of this is equally powerful; Jesus saw the pain of the family members and loved ones of Lazarus, and John says, “Jesus wept,” and so do we.

The past week has put us with Martha, Mary, the Jews, Thomas and Jesus.  The story we hear in St. John’s gospel brings us to the very core of our Christian belief, the resurrection.

Death is where we are all united, death is what Jesus came to destroy. The end is not death because Jesus restored us to life in him.  Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the light and that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.

There was Thomas disbelieving because he was hurt.  Thomas felt betrayed because he believed deeply in Jesus.  A week before he was willing to die with Jesus and Lazarus in Judea, a place where Jesus was going to be stoned if he returned.

Oh, that long week Thomas had to wait to see Jesus, it must have been so painful; he must have felt many emotions.

We can ask the same questions: “Where were you?”  “Why did you let this happen?”  “I hate you Jesus” “You could have stopped it if you would have been there.” The same questions that perhaps were asked by the people at the tomb of Lazarus and when Thomas was hurt; there must have been pain and resentment.

Dealing with death is not easy and is much more difficult when death comes suddenly.

If you take nothing away from these difficult days, please take this away:  we will all die, and we must all live, living is not merely breathing.  Living has to do with encounters and experiences.

Don’t let a day go by without experiencing life as if it is your last moment, as if the next breath is your last, because it could be so.

When life seems to be troublesome, when people don’t understand you or you think that nothing matters, remember it does.  I can’t tell you how many kind words Amber spoke to me when we had coffee together nearly every morning.

It matters because we have the ability to change the world one person at a time, like when Jason would give me a smile and a “Hi.”

That’s what I have now, the kind words from Amber and the smiles and “hi’s” from Jason.  That’s why it matters, because they have impacted my life, and I pray that in some small way God allows me to make that same impact on others lives, too.


[email protected]