HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: These Woes will end in God’s Glory.
BY: Fr. Uchenna Onyejiuwa.
When I reflect on the recent events in the country, the novel and massive turnout of youths in the just concluded elections, born out of a deep yearning for a new and better Nigeria and the ridiculous outcomes that evidenced a brazen subversion of the will of the people and the reactions trailing these outcomes, such as people coming out on social media to tear their passports as a way of expressing their discontentment, I think about survival, disappointment and moral values.
In talking about survival, we talk about the desire to prolong existence, for no one willingly wants to part ways with life. So when the system became unbearably gruelling and stifling for the common man (if he is not directly affected at least someone he loves is), he had no other option than to gasp for air by way of praying and coming out to vote (for the first time) for his choice candidate, with the hope of having a breath of fresh air at the end of that exercise but, before his very eyes, the same system robbed that hope. Now, it’s as if that singular hope is dashed, and in his devastation, he thinks God and man have failed him. Also, on the other hand, the system didn’t want to die, that brazen act of theft is its own way of fighting for survival, but there is a difference. While the common man struggles just for his survival, the system fights for the survival of affluence, the survival of greed and the survival of selfishness.
When the system that is supposed to promote, propagate, enforce and preserve moral and ethical principles that are the fabrics undergirding every civilised institution is the one that is wantonly violating the said principles and encourages severe punishment for those who try to preserve whatever that is left of those principles, know that that system is rotten to the core and the country is doomed. Since there will be no more grounds upon which right and wrong can be determined, it will be the survival of the most vicious. For where the trees of truth and justice are extirpated you find only absurdity. And the unscrupulous system is now in the business of defending the absurd barefacedly, even on national television, leaving viewers to continue to wonder how we got to this level. As it is, there is a growing temptation to give up on God and become decadent like the system, but that will be a terrible mistake.
The liturgy of today, being the last Sunday before the Holy Week, speaks directly to all of us who are currently in this frame of mind. It tells us that even though God appears to be too late, He is always on time. It is a liturgy that has the resurrection as its dominant theme. In the first reading taken from the Prophet Ezekiel, we read, “The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel… And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live…” And one would ask, why would God allow his people to go into the grave first before saving them? I will say it is because He is God and with Him, nothing is irremediable. By doing the impossible He proves Himself mighty. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates in today’s Gospel reading. It is pertinent to note that this is the last of His signs in His series of signs as recorded by St. John, and these signs are meant to reveal the identity of Jesus. In other words, the miracle of the raising of Lazarus is not so much about Martha and Mary as it is about Jesus Himself, it is Jesus revealing Himself through His great signs as the Messiah, the God among men.
When the news of Lazarus’s illness came to Jesus, He replied, “This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.” Then he stayed two extra days before inviting his disciples to go to Judea, knowing that His friend Lazarus was already dead. According to Jewish belief, if a man dies, there is hope that he may wake up within three days of his death because it is believed his spirit hovers around. But after three days all hope will be gone and there will be no doubt that the person has died. That is why Christ intentionally spent extra two days so that no one could dispute what He would do in Judea. His reply to His uneasy disciples is even more revealing, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe.” And after His encounter with distraught Martha, He made the point clearer and requested that she believes, “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” That He wept (which is the popularly known shortest verse in the Bible) after seeing Mary is not truly out of compassion as the Jews who accompanied suggested but, out of disappointment because of their unbelief, their lack of faith in Him. Some moments ago He tried to help Martha understand and believe only to be confronted again with an attitude of lack of faith. That is why he doesn’t go into repeating himself with Mary and comforting her but, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, asks, “Where have you put him?” And in His prayer, He made it explicit that the sole aim of the resurrection sign is for the people to believe in Him.
Beloved friends, the current situation in the country is no doubt the one that invites hopelessness. We can be likened to these two sisters in the Gospel who tried to save their brother by sending words to the Master about his sickness but did not receive any prompt response, as it were, from Him and eventually lost him. And in such frame of mind, we might begin to think of resorting to the evil ways of our oppressors and abandon Christ. There is no denying that weighed down by the heavy weight of disappointment and frustration man tends to forget who it is that he says he worships, and he begins to see Him as a failed alternative.
Today’s liturgy is here to remind us once again that our God is omnipotent and nothing is beyond Him, and as such, He can never be late. All that He requires of us is faith and absolute trust in Him. No matter how bad the situation is, He can change it to look as if it was never bad. But the question is, do we believe? How can God intervene when we have lost faith and abandoned His ways just because we feel bad, which is what the devil wants us to do? That is why St. Paul is telling us in the second reading that, “… unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified…” So let us not drive away the Spirit of Christ working in us by lapsing into immorality and a mundane lifestyle as a result of frustration. Let us believe that these woes will definitely end in God’s glory because He has never relinquished his authority over the universe to anyone. Peace be with you, and happy Sunday. (First reading, Ez 37:12-14; second reading, Rom 8:8-11; gospel, Jn 11:1-45).
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