Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent
Dearly Beloved, we gather on this 5th Sunday of Lent. Another great sign is given for our reflection. A great miracle. A dead man comes back to life. Death will continue to be our fiercest enemy. How sad it is to lose a loved one. It’s more sad when we were not there in one way or another when they needed us. We had kept postponing our love, our attention, care etc. Hoping each day that we were going to make it up to them. Then suddenly we hear they are gone. Dead.
I remember vividly what I felt when I saw my Dad’s lifeless body in December 2006. It’s a long time but seems recent. He was just 54 years old and passed on from an asthmatic attack. As I stood there, I heard myself asking all the “if” questions. What about if he had not travelled, if only he had his inhaler on him. When tragedy strikes, we see ourselves thinking about the “if’s”. Some people look at their lives today and are saddened by the choice they made some years past. It’s all about the if’s. We end up either blaming ourselves or another person. Do we take time to reflect on what God has to say in those tragic moments? There are times we even blame God.
At different instances, we heard Mary and Martha responding to Jesus ‘’If you had been here, our brother would not have died”. We also heard of Jesus’ instance of “if” "Did I not tell you that “if” you believe you will see the glory of God?" Before then he had assured Martha,
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus wants Martha to know that it is through Jesus himself that Lazarus will rise again, “I am the resurrection and the life…” Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus also wants you to know that for anyone who believes in Jesus death has only the appearance of death in human terms because we live after death, “whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” In fact, if we believe in Jesus we will not die, in the sense that the life we live in Christ now will continue after death, “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” When we live as Jesus calls us, there is a continuation from this life to the next. When we live as disciples of Jesus, it is as if we will almost not notice passing from this life to the next because spiritually we will never die. So the resurrection is not just something in the future, Jesus offers life now. The new life in the resurrection begins now in the life of the believer. St. Paul emphasizes that in the second reading.
But this passage isn’t just about earthly death, there’s something more to it; spiritual death. A kind of death we all experience daily because of our sins. Each time we sin, we embrace death again. It is also about any situation that we have lost every hope of getting over or making better. Situations and incidents in your past that you continue to blame yourself for. There are many who are walking dead and do not know what to do. Everything in this life seems to overwhelm them. These are the situations that make Jesus weep. He is affected by our dead end situations. When we experience the sting of spiritual death and hopelessness, he weeps with us as we’re suffering its effects.
However, that‘s not all he can do. Christ can actually do something more about the situation! In the midst of all that spiritual death, we have to remember that just as he told Martha and Mary, Christ himself is the resurrection and the life. He is the source of life, and he is our very reason for living. He wants to call us forth from that tomb of our sinfulness and hopelessness, and to untie us from the burial clothes that have become chains – chains of sin. But as with the Gospel, this takes faith. We need to respond to his invitation to come out. Are you willing to make this leap of faith to come out?
The season of Lent is indeed about death. Death to sin and death to ourselves. It is about dying to those things that keep us from God, and embracing the life that Christ offers to us. Christ offers us special opportunities during Lent to embrace this life every time we pray, every time we read Sacred Scripture. And most especially through the sacraments– specifically Reconciliation and the Eucharist. This Wednesday will be the reconciliation service at St. Jude, Radford. Please do make time for it.