HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: God’s Presence and the Battle with Forces of Death.
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie.
Resp. Psalm 130:1-8
Our earthly life is a constant battle with the forces of death. They come un different guises. The only way to succeed is to remain in the presence of God, to remain anchored in God, to move in the Spirit of God. This sums the message of all the readings of this 5th Sunday of Lent.
1. In the first reading from Ezek 37:12-14, God promises to revive His moribund people. Prophet Ezekiel portrays their situation in exile as that of dead bones in an immense mass graveyard. The remarkable thing is that only the Spirit of God succeeds in bringing these dead bones back to life. In this way, God commits Himself to raise His people from their graves. We find ourselves in gravelike and lifeless situations whenever we give in to the seductions of sin and diabolical forces. But God is ever eager to rescue us. The psalmist of Psalm 130 in today’s responsorial Psalm gives voice to this as he prays: “Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord”. He does not just cry in hopelessness, he believes that God in mercy will pull him out from the mortal dungeon. Only God can do this.
2. In the second reading, the Apostle Paul admonishes his audience in Rom 8:8-11, that only those who live in the Spirit can please God. This is opposed to living in the flesh. Living in the Spirit means living constantly with the presence of God and in the consciousness of God’s care. It is only in this way we can overcome the forces of darkness that threaten us constantly. As long as we remain in this mortal frame, we are daily exposed to deadly and hostile forces. Only God’s abiding presence delivers us. But we need to develop the right attitude towards that presence.
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3. All these are contained in the fascinating story of the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of today from John 11:1-45. This is the greatest of all the miracles of Jesus in John, if not in all the Gospels. The story depicts Jesus in battle with the forces of death. His absence and presence are remarkable. Because he was absent, Lazarus succumbs to death, but his presence brings Lazarus back to life. The disciples of Jesus try to discourage Jesus from going to Bethany to answer the sick call from the family of Lazarus. Their reason is that forces that intend to kill him are in that region. The disciples caution him: “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there? (11:8). Jesus disregards their advice and decides to go. In reaction his disciple Thomas enjoins his colleagues: “Let us also go to die with him” (11:16). This conversation of Jesus and his disciples demonstrates that the journey of Jesus to Bethany in Judea is a confrontation with two forms of death forces: the opponents of Jesus who intend to kill him and the very death that has claimed his bosom friend Lazarus. The journey is thus a walk into the region of death. Jesus is charged for battle and let’s all know that he is stronger than death. He is the resurrection and the life. His presence is presence of life power. This power commands the forces of death to release Lazarus and they obey. Jesus makes the statement that he is the one and no other, the only hope of all menaced by the forces of death.
In Jesus we have a powerful Companion who stands with us in all our struggles. When the forces of darkness frighten us and incline us to betray truth and justice, let us always remember that we are not alone. As we struggle with the forces of darkness in our families, communities and wider society, let us remember that we are not alone. We cannot fight only with human weapons. God’s Spiritual presence is our greatest weapon.
May God’s life giving presence continue to abide with us!
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