HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A..
THEME: THE PRISON BREAK.
BY: Fr. Vincent Onwukwe
On 25 February and 18 March 2023, millions of Nigerians went to the polls to elect their new leaders in view of better leadership opportunities. Sadly, many Nigerian and non-Nigerian citizens have described the elections recently held in Nigeria as the worst elections in the history of Nigeria. There were many incidents of violence, vote buying, thuggery, and snatching of ballot boxes, to mention a few. In some instances, however, these polling exercises became a process that brought about a ‘prison break’ and great rejoicing, especially when the ‘people’s candidates’ were announced as the elect. In a particular state, for instance, after the announcement of the result, the citizens of that state took to the streets in their numbers, singing songs of joy and liberation and thanking God for saving them from political slavery: “Fero, anyị alawala, anyị agaghị efe Pharoah ọzọ” (Pharoah, we are leaving, we shall not serve Pharoah again, cf. Ex 12-15). Like the Israelites, they had been crying out to God out of the depths and dungeon for many years (cf. Ps 130:1). Their political leaders buried their citizenship and political and economic progress in the grave of bad leadership. But God has opened their political tomb to let them out of their imprisonment. Hence, The biblical metaphorical prophecy about liberation and regeneration in the book of Ezekiel: “I will open your graves and bring you out from your graves” (Is 37:13), is fulfilled in their state.
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While we pray for the liberation of the Nigerian people and other countries experiencing political and economic decay from every political prison, it is worthwhile to mention another type of prison, a self-prison, in which people could find themselves ‒ the prison of the flesh and self. In the many departments of this prison, love is buried in the grave of hatred, joy is forced into an uncomfortable prison called sorrow, selflessness and sacrifice are locked up in the cage of selfishness and self-centeredness, and, worst of all, the flesh traps the soul and the Spirit of God in us, making Him dormant. St Paul warns us about the prison of the flesh: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you… If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies…, through His Spirit dwelling in you” (Rom 8:8-11). Note that the verb ‘dwells’ is used to relate to the Holy Spirit three times. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, He is our chief resident, not in prison. When this is the case, He gives life to our mortal bodies. Unfortunately, many Christian hearts have become a tomb where Christ is buried and passive. It is even more unfortunate when we are unaware of this regrettable situation. But making the Christian heart a throne where Christ reigns is better. If one’s heart is a tomb, then s/he is spiritually dead. But all hope is not lost; the One who raised Lazarus from the tomb is still available.
Lazarus’ situation in John 11 was hopeless. Humanly speaking, there was no hope of returning him to life since he had been in the grave for four days. His lifeless body would naturally be stinking. His situation was so touching that Jesus began to weep (Jn 11:35). Similarly, Jesus weeps for the suffering of the imprisoned poor soul that has grossly derailed through the life of sin, losing its spiritual identity. Nevertheless, He is ready to forgive and help if given a chance. Let us invite Him to set us free. Have we been trapped in a life of hatred, (sexual ) impurity, prayerlessness, sorrow, et cetera? All hope is not lost. Jesus is willing to help us.
Jesus also weeps for the suffering of the homeless, lonely, the poor, the depressed, and the sick. Let our hearts not be troubled (Jn 14:1). He knows our pain.
May every snare in your life be broken, and may you escape the fowlers’ trap (Ps 124:7)! Amen!
God loves you!
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