In the opening chapters of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Jarvis Lorry, a banker who is traveling by coach to Dover receives a message that he is to wait for a ward of the bank, Lucie Manette, before he continues his journey. He responds to the message with a cryptic response: “Recalled to life.” In this message he is referring to Lucie’s father, a French doctor who was imprisoned by his enemies and was long thought of as dead. He had been “buried” in the Bastille for eighteen years.
Both the reading from Isaiah and the reading from the Gospel of St. John speak of how God has restored or recalled us to life. Isaiah writes of how God will lead the children of Israel back to their homeland after years of exile in Syria. The naysayers contradict Isaiah, “God has forgotten us. God has forsaken us.” This evokes one of the most beautiful verses in all of the Hebrew Scriptures: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you!”
In responding to those who criticize him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus makes the same point. “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.” The man at the pool of Bethesda had lain there for thirty-eight years. Though he was technically alive, he may as well have been dead. In healing him Jesus recalled him to life. This miracle of healing is called a sign by St. John, a sign that all will be called forth from the tombs in which they are buried and will be recalled to everlasting life.
Self-worth is an important quality for all of us. We are often faced with the naysayers who would have us believe that God has abandoned and forgotten us. Try as we might, we all can have days when we wonder about the cross God has asked us to carry. The Scriptures today remind us that God’s love for us is even greater than a mother’s love for her child. God will never abandon us. God will never forget us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.