Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel, Lazarus, and New Life

Many lives are lost and many more lives are made miserable in the Ukrainian War. There are many innocent people caught up in the cross fire. In a similar way, there was a man whose dearest wife was killed by armies who were fighting to take over the city. That man was devastated to hear of his wife’s death in the hands of the armies. He was a God-fearing religious man. God revealed to him that his grief was to match the grief of God over his beloved people. Therefore, God asked him not to grieve over his wife. He was to steel himself to face the tragedy that had come upon his city as a consequence of its sins. That man was Ezekiel, an elite priest of Jerusalem, and this incident happened about 600 years before Christ. Jerusalem was overrun by Babylonian invaders and the Israelites were taken to captivity into a foreign land. They were feeling hopeless in the face of it all. In such a situation, God’s promise of the new life was revealed through Ezekiel. What the prophet spoke was God’s revelation for the Israelites who were like dead men walking. Ezekiel spoke God’s words, “I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live” (Ez37:13). While it generated hope for a new life of settling back in their lost land, Israel, the primary message was that of a new life that is received through the forgiveness of sin. The ultimate price of sin is death, and the best of hope should be the victory over death. It was to happen six centuries later in Jesus. What Ezekiel revealed to the deported Israelites in Babylon was also a prophecy of the salvation plan to be realised in Jesus.

Jesus, as the son of God, has power over death and life. In Chapter 11 of John’s Gospel we see Jesus raising Lazarus to life. The gospel says, when he heard that his friend Lazarus was mortally sick, he stayed two more days before making his way to Bethany. Then when he arrived, his friends Mary and Martha were grieving over the death of their brother Lazarus. Mary seemed to indicate that Jesus was insensitive to the pain of his friends when she said, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” People also echoed similar sentiments when they said, “he opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?” Isn’t it typical of our human nature to blame God for his lack of response when times are hard and painful? In this situation the sisters and the people gathered there seemed to be more in the dark than Lazarus who was buried in a tomb. Bringing Lazarus back to life is a sign that Jesus, as God, is the Lord of Life and Death. Jesus is the resurrection and life. Through raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus gives us hope and a new life, and we need not despair in darkness.

Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Moved by the crying Mary and the mourners with her, Jesus began to weep. It is puzzling considering the deliberate nature of his delay. Yet it contains a revelation about Jesus, the Son of God. ‘Jesus wept’ is the shortest verse in the New Testament. This verse highlights the two natures of Jesus. Lazarus and his sisters were close friends of Jesus, and he was clearly emotional about the death and its effect on Martha and Mary. Therefore, in his humanity, he wept. But in his divinity Jesus raised Lazarus to life. The fact that Jesus is about to restore Lazarus to life does not deny his human expression of grief.