Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year A
Theme: Delay is not denial
By: Rev. Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
Homily for Sunday March 29 2020
Ezekiel 37:12-14, Romans 8:8-11, John 11:1-45
In the face of the pandemic that is ravaging the world today, some persons may be like “I wish African magic is real” where a pastor raises his hand and the dead will rise immediately and pandemics take to their heels. In fact some have had the courage to ask me “Fr. Why will God still allow this virus to continue even with all the prayers many people have been firing”. All these questions are born out of the fact that many have disrobed Patience of its royal garment and are glorifying a gospel of “blessing delayed is a blessing denied”. Patience has been given a quit notice in our world and even religion.
Today we practice “sharp-sharp Christianity” not minding the fact that patience leads us to greater things. In fact an adage goes that “the patient dog eats the fattest bone” but some have turned it to “the fattest bone is eaten by the fastest dog” because no one wants to wait again. God’s silence does not mean NO, his silence in times of trouble and especially within the pandemic ravaging the world does not mean he has abandoned the world or no longer answer prayers. He says in Isaiah 55:8-9 “my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not your ways…”
St. John in our gospel reading presents us with the last and greatest of the miracles worked by Jesus at Bethany: the raising of Lazarus the friend of Jesus. In becoming a friend of Lazarus, Jesus sanctifies and instituted the human friendship. Thus we are meant to be friends of each other. One of the most dangerous individuals to be afraid of is one with no friend. Even an insane person has friend. Good friend is a blessing; they will always be there when everyone one have gone their ways. For instance, when all abandoned the dead body of Jesus on the cross and went their ways, John 19:38 says that “ Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple (friend) of Jesus but secretly for fear of the Jews asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus and Pilate gave him permission…” Joseph of Arimathea unlike others took the body of Jesus and gave him a befitting burial. Now Lazarus the friend of Jesus had fallen sick and his sisters had sent for Jesus saying “Lord, the one you love is sick”. We must take note of the message. Jesus was not asked to come, the message only informed him of his friend’s illness yet Jesus as a good friend uninvitedly went to visit him. But his visit wasn’t as expected. John 11:5-6 says “Now Martha and her sister and Lazarus were friends of Jesus, yet after he heard of the illness of Lazarus, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was”. One may ask, what kind of friend is Jesus that he cannot hasten to the need of his dear friend. But the answer is that Jesus wanted to teach that “our thoughts are not his thoughts and our ways are not his ways”; he wants to bring to our notice that anyone who waits upon the Lord never regret waiting and God’s time is the best. When Jesus got to the home of Lazarus his friend, Martha complained just as any of us would have done. She said “Lord if you had been here (earlier) my brother would not have died”. In order words “why are you just coming, we have been waiting for you, it is already too late”. But the fact is that if Jesus had been to Bethany earlier, the Jews would not have believed the miracle. And so Jesus waited until Lazarus was four days in the tomb because the Jews believe that the spirit leaves the body after three days. Jesus waited until the case became hopeless yet Lazarus was his friend.
If Jesus can allow the case of his friend to get to the level of hopelessness before he could rescue him what then makes you think that he will not come to your aid? What makes you think that he cannot hear our prayer during this trying moment? Yes he wants you to pray but he also wants you to be patient that his glory may be made manifest. He wants us to allow him to be God. I don’t know what your story is like but whatever it may be, no matter how ugly you think it is, know that it is not beyond God. Isaiah 59:1 says “behold, the Lord’s hands are not too short to save, nor his ears too dull to hear” and Habakkuk 2:3 says “if it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay”. His delay is not denial.
Jairus in Mark 5:21-43 waited patiently on the Lord until his case became so to speak, hopeless yet the Lord turned his tears to joy. There was a delay in responding but the response was never denied. So I say to you in this trying moment, hope and wait on the Lord “for those who trust in the Lord are like mount Zion that cannot be moved”. (Psalm 125:1). HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU.