HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR A.
THEME: GOD, WHO RESTORES OUR HOPE
Beloved in Christ, gradually the season of lent is coming to an end; we are invited to intensify our preparations for the celebration of Easter through fasting, alms giving and prayer.
Therefore, the prophet Ezekiel tells us to hope in the midst of hopelessness, to have faith in the midst of despair and to have life in the midst of death. For Ezekiel, God intervenes to restore, recreate and to raise up, thus no human condition is beyond the power of God, not even death.
Ezekiel therefore linked those in exile to those in the grave or the dry bones and described them as a people with no hope but despair and hopelessness; for the temple was destroyed, land wasted and the people taken into exile. However, God promised that he will change their situation by restoring them to their homeland. The dry bones will live and possess its land for the Spirit of God will make His home in them. (Psam 104:30) Hence, from the graves, new life will emerge(Ezekiel 37:12)
My dear friend, affirming that not even death will stop God from carrying out his promise, John also recounts to us the raising up of Lazarus from the death. And this miracle significantly took place on the fourth day after Lazarus had died. I refer to the timing of this miracle as significant because the traditional Jewish belief had it that the soul of a dead person remains within the body for three days, then on the fourth day the soul finally departs the body for corruption to set in the body.
(eg ;Jesus rising on the third day meant his body did not experience corruption).
Beloved, the response of Martha in John 11:9 meant the situation was hopeless.
Consequently, in the words of G. K. Chesterton -“hope means hoping when things are hopeless or it is no virtue at all”. Hence,the story of Lazarus challenges us to never give up on hope even in hopeless situation for it is never too late for God to intervene and restore hope. For this reason, Martha brought her sadness to the Lord and her sadness was transformed into a faith experience that her brother was not death but alive with the Lord. But sadly there are people who see their disappointment or pain as a stumbling block to faith.
Again, the story of Lazarus tells us that God will not do by a miracle what you can do by obedience. Hence according to C.S. Lewis -“God seems to do nothing of himself which he can possibly delegate to his creatures.
Therefore, resolve not to be discouraged by your past failings but in obedience , let us cooperate with God who can restore our life from the pit of failure, disgrace and disappointment.
Hence, like the people of Israel and like Martha and Mary we are to look beyond our present suffering, hardships and struggles. We are not to be discouraged by the present but we are to be encouraged by what the future should be when we allow the grace of God to work in us for the glory of God.
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