Jesus The Lord of Life – Video and Text Homily by Rev Fr Osita Eze
Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A
1st Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Ps 129;
2nd Reading: Romans 8:8-11;
Gospel: John 11:1-45;
Theme: Jesus! The Lord of Life
Today is the 5th Sunday of Lent, and the last Sunday before Passion Sunday. Dear friends in Christ, our first reading today promises us hope, healing, restoration; revival and regeneration of our weakened lives through the frustrating and hectic journey of life especially during this moment of global pandemic. Although this promise was made to Israel of Old during their exilic predicament, it is still very much valid for us and our generation especially at this very critical moment that our people are dying in thousands as a result of this deadly disease called COVID19. Though most of us are in our homes and are unable to come to church this morning, we are still not far from God and God has not abandoned us.
However, in the light of this spiritual and exilic predicament,
It is only the spirit of God that can restore us
It is only the spirit of God that can heal us
It is only the spirit of God that can revive us
It is only the spirit of God that can lift us up and save us from this deadly pandemic
Hence, the Lord in his loving kindness promises us today: in his words “…And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil and you will know that I your God have done what I said I will do…” (Ezekiel 37:14).
In the second reading, Paul, looking at our present situation, reminds us that it is only the Spirit of Jesus that can restore us to life. Hence, he tells us that: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you…He will give life to your mortal bodies…” (Rom 8:11).
What Paul insinuates here is simple, the fact that without the Spirit of God having an upper hand in our lives, we are as good as dead. This is evident in the life of Saul the former king of Israel. Immediately the Spirit of God left him, his life became miserable, devilish and of course, he was as good as dead (I Sam 16: 14-16).
A true child of God needs no oracle to alert him/her that what keeps one going is the Spirit of God. It is the symbol and evidence of activity of life in us, and indeed in all God’s creatures. This is why Paul warns us sternly: “…Do not grief the Holy Spirit of God who is God’s mark of ownership of you…” (Eph 4:30). If we do, He leaves us and we become as good as dead, exhausted and barren. The Spirit of Jesus is what therefore makes the difference, because He is both our lifeline and support. Losing him means losing life, and drifting towards the dangerous domain of carnality eventually leads to our death.
The gospel of today presents us with the story of the encounter of Jesus and Lazarus and Jesus’ demonstration of the power that makes the difference, the only power that is capable of raising Lazarus from death and the power that restores life. The gospels we have been hearing the last three Sundays are three extraordinary events from the gospel of John. Three people who had an encounter with Christ. Three people whose lives were changed forever because of it. There was the skeptical and disbelieving woman at the well who was so stunned at how Jesus knew her, she had to go out and tell others (Jn 4). There was the blind beggar who gained more than just his sight. He came to see the truth of who Jesus really was (Jn 9). And here is Lazarus today literally, the walking dead, restored to life because he answered the call of his friend Jesus.
Brothers and Sisters, Jesus proved today that he himself is “The Lord of life.” Jesus could not have achieved this without the power of the Holy Spirit whom he himself relied so much on. Often times we have seen or heard some self acclaimed “men/women of God” laying claims to their ability to either raise the dead, or that they themselves will rise from the dead as Christ did. Unfortunately, most of these claims have ended up as empty bragging motivated by vainglory and sheer spiritual arrogance! The reason is that they think that it is by power or mere might, worst still is the fact that they seek to take the glory while cajoling the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are few lessons we must learn from our gospel reading. First, is the fact that it takes love for any miracle to be carried out. We were told that when the message came to Jesus: “The man you love is ill.” Jesus went because of the great love he had for Lazarus and his family. Hence, their sorrow became His sorrow, their pain his pain: “And Jesus wept!” In other words, it was compassionate love that moved Jesus to demonstrate this power and not just mere emotion. All He did was borne out of love and for the glory of God, and not because he just wanted to show off. Therefore, we are called to love sincerely.
Secondly, our faith is very important in the working of any miracle for us. This is why Jesus constantly said and asked Mary and Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. If any one believes in me even though he dies, he will live…Do you believe in this…?” (Jn 11:25-26). In the case of resurrecting Lazarus, Jesus’ goodwill, compassionate love and the faith of Mary and Martha fused together in order to kindle the power of the Holy Spirit into activity. Therefore we should not lose faith especially at this critical moment of COVID19.
The third lesson is that with Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit everything is Possible because Jesus has authority over life and death, and even in the grave He is Lord. Therefore, Jesus is ever willing to help us no matter what it will cost him. Not even the plot of the Jews to kill him could stop him from going to wake Lazarus up. Also not even our PRESENT PREDICAMENT (COVID19) will prevent Jesus from saving us when the time comes for him to do so. He calls us by our name today as He did to Lazarus: “Here! Come out!” My dear friends, when you hear His voice do not hesitate to come out as the Psalmist says to us: “Oh that today you listen to His voice, harden not your hearts!” (Psalm 95). If we hearken to his voice definitely, he will give command in the power of the Holy Spirit, to all the entanglements of this world that hold us bound to set us free.
Dear children of God, I find myself asking these questions about this Sunday’s gospel – it makes me wonder: What happened to Lazarus after he was brought back from the dead? How much longer did he live? What did people say to him? What did he say to them? Was he haunted by memories of his former life? Did he remember what happened when he was dead? How did all of that change him? More importantly: what would any of us do if given a second chance at life? Well, there is no Lazarus to answer these questions; his story stands alone. But I think if you really want to know what happened next, the best answer is closer than we may think because Lazarus … is all of us.
We are all trapped in a tomb; a tomb of wickedness, a tomb of adultery and fornication, a tomb of disobedience and rebellion, a tomb of academic laziness and spiritual laxity hidden in the dark wrapped up on our own brokenness, our own sinfulness. We could be there forever. But in the midst of these, Jesus weeps. He weeps for us – because he loves us, and has lost us. He wants to bring us back. And then unexpectedly, incredibly, wondrously…he calls out to us. Do we even care to listen to him?
Have we forgotten that we began this prayerful season of lent as “the walking dead,” marked with ashes, bearing a reminder of our fate, hearing words that told us to remember that we are dust. And here we are, few weeks later, confronted with a deadly pandemic. Child of God, I want to assure you that in the midst of all our situations, Jesus again calls us, as He did to Lazarus: “Come out!”
Therefore, now is the time for us to answer that call. Now is the time to leave behind our sinful ways. Now is the time to leave the dwelling place of the dead and begin again in order to get a second chance, like Lazarus. Hence, it is time to be reconciled with God. May God have mercy on us and heal our world through Christ our Lord. Amen!