THEME: JESUS, OUR RESURRECTION AND LIFE
READINGS: Ezekiel 37:12-14 / Romans 8:8-11 / John 11: 1-45
5th Sunday of Lent
Beloved in Christ, we have been praying for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the situation seems to be getting worse. In the face of these trying times, some may be discouraged from continuing with their prayers, whereas others may give up their faith altogether. Please beloved, let us hold onto our faith and continue to pray.
Providentially, today’s readings assure us that God is able to turn around situations which are way beyond our human capacities. Specifically, the readings assure us that for our God even death is not the end of our existence.
For instance, in today’s first reading, the prophet Ezekiel assured the people of God exiled in Babylon: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them …. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live…”’ (Ezek. 37:12-14). This message of hope was an interpretation of a vision which the prophet had received. In the vision the prophet saw a valley full of dry bones; and God gave new life to all the dry bones (Ezek. 37:1-10).
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus demonstrates that He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), by raising Lazarus who was dead and buried (John 11:40-44). Indeed, He offers mankind something more excellent than was revealed in the vision. For Jesus does not only give life to dead bones (e.g. He raised the dead Lazarus), He gives supernatural life to our souls. He gives a new life beyond this earth – a new life beyond description. Lazarus, who was raised back to life on this earth, died again. That is, a new life for only this earth will eventually end. But the good news is that Jesus is offering us the resurrection from the dead unto a new life in heaven that never ends. It is ever-lasting life – eternal life!
Normally, goods of high quality are more expensive than those of cheap quality (for now don’t think of the fraudsters who can deceive a person into buying a cheap product at a high price). Similarly, giving resurrection and eternal life to the dead cost Jesus more than it takes Him to bring dead persons back to this (earthly) life. Thus, before travelling to Bethany to raise Lazarus, He told his disciples: ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up’ (John 11:11). And when He eventually got to the tomb, He brought Lazarus back to life by simply calling out: ‘Lazarus, come out!’ (John 11:43). That is, for Jesus, raising Lazarus back to this earthly life was as simple as waking up a person from sleep. However, to offer us the resurrection that leads to new life in heaven, He had to shed His blood on the cross.
Beloved, hearing this message two weeks before Easter means that God is reminding us: firstly, to soberly meditate and appreciate the price Jesus had to pay for our salvation; secondly, to appreciate the inestimable value of the resurrection and heavenly life; and thirdly, to renew our faith in Jesus, our resurrection and our life.
Finally, to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus asked the people to remove the stone from the entrance of the tomb. Martha then reacted: “Lord, by now there will be a stench” (John 11:39). Fortunately, Jesus removed Martha’s feeling of doubt and despair. So, if the escalating pandemic of COVID-19 has sealed our heart with a stone of doubt or despair, may the Lord graciously remove it and call out our faith (like the dead Lazarus) to come back to life. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis