Homily From Fr Ronald 29 March 2020

5th Sunday of Lent

 

Today our readings move us from tragedy to restoration. 

The 1st reading from Ezekiel details how God led the people of Israel back from the Babylonian Exile. The Israelites had been removed from their land and been exiled for around 70 years. 

This bitter experience had sapped the life out of them, but as he had done in the past, God saves Israel again and the people move from a time of trial to restoration and new life.

The graphic description of graves being opened tells us that the exile was experienced as a graveyard for the people of Israel and so the return from this is like a resurrection, a new life. 

We too, find ourselves very much in exile at this present time. We’ve spent almost a week in isolation with no clear end in sight. But instilled in those of us who identify as Christian is an unrelenting hope that God will move us once more from tragedy to restoration. 

This hope is borne from the Holy Spirit which is indwelling within each of us. We’re told by St Paul in our 2nd reading that ‘the Spirit of God has made his home in you.’ The Spirit being deep within each of us means that we are more than just our mortal bodies, our outward appearance. 

If we consider our human nature apart from the spiritual, then we’re identifying ourselves only with worldly things rather than with Christ. This is a temptation, because we’re living in an age when we’ve never been more independent, but without a spiritual dimension to our lives, without faith, we’re ultimately powerless. And we’ve seen this week just how true that is.  

This theme of moving from tragedy to restoration is seen most explicitly in our Gospel.

Lazarus’ illness and death is reversed but he still needs to be unbound. 

In Jesus, God reaches out to the tragedy of the human condition and to each one of us. This is the tender mercy of our God.

The concern of Jesus in this passage is palpable and touching – he weeps for his friend. And so too, our love and care for others meditates God’s love. 

Lazarus is a symbol for people written off as dead but who have come back to life through faith. And so we might ask ourselves today - has faith helped to free us from the bondage or the destructive elements of our lives?

This human account has a consoling message – the resurrection realised and offered in the person of Jesus is the supreme gesture of God’s love towards humanity.

On Friday night Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing to pray for an end to the Coronavirus. Such blessings only normally take place at Easter and Christmas. What made this all the more poignant was the fact it was delivered to an empty St Peter’s Square, save for a handful of official staff. 

Reflecting on the Gospel passage of Jesus in the boat with his disciples during a storm, he asked us to consider our own faith saying: 

“Faith begins when we realise that we are in need of salvation, that we’re not self – sufficient and by ourselves we flounder. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives, let us hand over our fears to him, so he can conquer them. Like the disciples on board, we’ll discover there is no shipwreck.” 

Why are raised from the dead? Why are we unbound from all our worries and fears and the storms in our lives? Because we are loved with a personal love from God. And knowing this means that we can have an unrelenting hope in this time that we’ll move from tragedy to restoration. So continue to be people of hope, and know that you’re in my prayers.