JESUS, THE LORD OF LIFE RAISES TO LIFE

Whereas last Sunday we encountered Jesus giving sight to the man who was born blind, on this 5th Sunday of Lent we encounter Him giving life to a dead man. In order not to be mere observers but participants in what God is doing, we ought to note that both the blind man that received sight and the dead man (Lazarus) that received life are our representatives. We encounter Jesus, the Lord of Life and ask Him to raise us to life. 
 
A cry out of the depths
A friend of mine almost shocked me when he sent me a message: „We are all dead“. I was forced to call him just to confirm, only to find out that he was still alive. In fact, I told him: „You are still alive“. I later found out that he wanted to describe the shadow of death that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has cast on our time. It is, thus, very good news to listen to the voice of Jesus calling out:“Come out!“ The prophet Ezekiel in the First Reading (Ez 37,12-14) presents a lifeless situation of the people of Israel when they were in exile. God promises to give them life through the outpouring of His Spirit. God promises to raise His people from their graves. We can also say that the situation we are living now is like a valley of death. With the psalmist (Ps 130, 1) we can say: „Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!“ This is a collective cry of the whole world entreating God’s intervention. What is required of us is a strong faith that enables us to wait for God’s answer. We are sure that He will answer. Just as the watchman waits for daybreak, so are we certain that our God will answer since He loves us. The journey that led Israel to become a chosen nation of Yahweh began with a helpless cry which God heard. „I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them…“ (Exodus 3, 7-8). Yes. With the Lord there is mercy and in Hm there is generous redemption. Learn to wait, for his answer may delay! 
 
Delayed intervention?
Listening to today’s Gospel text (John 11, 1-45), one would question why Jesus, a real friend, delayed to come to Lazarus before he died. His sisters had sent the message to him about Lazarus‘ illness: „Lord, he whom you love is ill.“ (John 11, 3). In this encounter questions are allowed. Why the delay? Jesus Himself gives the answer: „Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.“ (John 11,15) The evangelist John introduced the mission of Jesus in the world as being motivated solely by His love for the world: „God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to  condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.“ (John 3,16-17). Like the sisters of Lazarus, we ought to speak out our cry: „Lord, the one (the world) that you love is ill. God is not indifferent to the suffering of the world. Instead, He is with us in the midst of our struggles. He is compassion, that is, He suffers with the suffering.
 
Jesus wept
Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in spirit. In him we see God whose heart is moved by the misery of his people. The people who saw him commented rightly: „See how he loved him!“ Let us remember that the one (Lazarus) for whom he sheds tears is our representative. See how he loves us! The reaction of Martha and Mary to Jesus‘ arrival speaks about the faith they had in Jesus‘ power to give life. „Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.“ (John 11, 21, 32). Where Jesus is, there is life. The only challenge for Jesus is that many prefer to live without him. In fact, they close him out of their lives and affairs (see Mk 5,17; Lk 4,28-30). Jesus‘ is more than mere sympathy. He comes to restore life. He is true God from true God, as we profess in the creed. On different occasions, he raised the dead back to life (see Mk 5,21-43 Jairus‘ daughter, Lk 7,11-17 widow’s son). When Jesus enters lifeless situations, life is made possible. The love that Jesus showed to Lazarus is the love that he has for each one of us. The lover will never leave the beloved to perish.
Take away the stone! Come out! Unbind him, and let him go!
The two imperatives „take away“ and „unbind“ point to a kind of collaboration that God always wishes to have from human beings in order to carry out His plans of giving life. His being moved and moving to the tomb is meant to move others to action. They shouldn’t be mere observers but active participants in the life-giving action of God. In fact, in raising his friend back to life, we notice that he engages the action of those who had come to console the bereaved family. They are to take away the stone and they and to unbind him. At the centre of all this is Jesus‘ mighty word: „Come out!“ He does this after a prayer to the Father. Jesus knows where his point of reference is. What happens to the dead man Lazarus coming out of the tomb, is what happens when the Father will raise his son from the dead. The women will find the stone rolled away from the tomb (John 11,41//John 20,1; Lk 24,2). 
Resurrection as daily experience
The key for understanding and applying the word of God for us today is faith. Jesus is asking each one us: „Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?“ Faith enables us to remain firm even in the midst of crisis. The whole world seems to be currently burried in the grave of fear due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus. The Lord who is in charge of all life, is calling us all out of the tomb of fear. He wants us to have confidence in him. His intervention is meant for the glory of God. It is our hope that recognizing our vulnerability and limitation of our human resources, we may appreciate the treasure that our faith in God is. Our faith in God has been dead for a long time. This is the time to show the Lord „where we burried it“. Is it in the self-made graves of human progress? Let us show him the tombs! The call of Jesus should also be heard by individuals and communities to come out of sin and any sort of addiction. Let us help remove the stones in the way so that Jesus may find access to many more souls. Let us unbind one another from the cords of hatred and let God bind us together with cords of love. Let us remove the stones of individualism so as to live as a world in solidarity. If we do this, resurrection is then not a reality only of the after-world, but a daily experience of those who allow themselves to be led by God’s life-giving Spirit. 
 

Jesus gives sight and insight

Dear brothers and sisters!


The 4th Sunday of Lent (also known as Laetare =Rejoice since Easter is near) invites us to reflect on our identity as Children of Light. We ought to bear in mind that this light is a given one. The ability to see is a very precious gift. Lack of physical sight compromises the quality of life. A person who was born blind has nothing in one’s  experience which one can imagine seeing. In fact, in order to imagine, one needs known images as points of reference. Whereas we want to be grateful to God for the ability to make use of our eyes in order to see the beauty of creation, the word of God today invites us to look at our spiritual blindness and let the Light of the World (Jesus) give us sight.

Today‘s Gospel text (John 9, 1-41) presents to us Jesus who was passing by and caught sight of a man „blind from birth“. New creation is going to happen here. In the beginning there was total darkness which covered the whole earth. Then God, in His creative power, said: „Let there be light! And there was light. (Genesis 1, 2-3). Light was God’s first creation.  In the blind man we see darkness which covers existence. Jesus, healing this blind man, is God Himself at work. God’s word is indeed a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path through all moments of darkness (see Ps 119,105).

It is important to note how the healing takes place and how the blind man receives light. Jesus takes some clay with his own spitle (Oh God, it is a droplet…Corona-Virus!!! Don’t worry, Jesus is Lord even over all viruses!!!). He takes the very material out of which the human being was made  and mixes it with his own spirit in order to effect a new creation (Gen 2,7). The man is sent by Him (Jesus) who was sent to give life. After washing he comes back seeing. The Annointed One anoints the eyes and healing sets in. Since we have to do with creation, it is important to note that the promise of the tempter in Gen 3, 5 :“…when you eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…“ caused a profound blindness to settle over humanity. Thus, all human beings are spiritually blind from birth because they lost the supernatural grace in which they were created. The original lens on reality was lost. The blind man in the gospel is a representative of humanity in need of restoration. With our sight restored we shall have a better image of God, of others and of ourselves.

At Baptism, we all receive light from the Easter Candle, that is, we receive light from Christ himself. Jesus told us that „no one lights up a lamp to put it under a bushel. Instead one puts it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house.“ (Mt 5, 15). Whereas the Gospel speaks about a deepening of vision for the blind man, it also unfolds the deepening of blindness for the Pharisees. After receiving sight, the man who was blind becomes a witness. Even if at first he doesn’t know who Jesus is, he bases his testimony on the fact that he has opened his eyes. The Pharisees who should see this light shining are in fact blind. The man who was blind does not only receive sight but also insight into the identity of Jesus. Jesus tells him:“You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.“ (Joh 9,37). The light of faith that we receive sets us all on a journey of deepening our knowledge of God. It creates room in us so that we can see the self-communication of God. In this way we learn to see the way God sees. The men of the appearances (the Pharisees) were blinded by their insistence on the outward observance of the Law in such a way that they couldn’t embrace the newness that Jesus brought. The way we see will certainly determine the way we judge reality. Yahweh said to Samuel: „Do not look on his appearance…for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.“ (First Reading 1 Samuel 16). With the light of faith, we, as christians, are helped to see beyond appearances, for these are many times very deceptive. I wish we could all learn not to judge reality and people according to the way they appear! Antoine de Saint Exupery put it this way:“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible.“

The Covid-19 Pandemic has cast a terrible darkness over the whole world. Perhaps we have the „best Lent ever“ in which we can let God’s light dispell this darkness. We (poor and rich) all realize that we are limited beings. Our life as humans on this Planet earth depends entirely on God. We are grateful for all the efforts being taken in order to find a solution to this terrible disease, but we ought not to forget that we are, at the same time, fighting a spiritual battle (Eph 6). Let us go beyond the dark appearance of this time of trial and discern in it a chance to cultivate our interiority as individuals and as christian communities.

For the time being there is no physical closeness with one another, but our spiritual closeness will bring us all to a journey on which we follow Christ to the Cross as brothers an sisters. Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) wrote a very inspiring hymn: „Onward Christian Soldiers! Marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus going on before!“ Let us allow ourselves be led by Christ and be light wherever we are. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is leading us through the dark valleys. Let us do our part by following the directives given to us and then leave the rest to him who leads us along the right path. The Letter to the Ephesians reminds us of who we are as children of light (Today’s First Reading). St. Paul is encouraging us to rise from the dead so that Christ may give us his light“ (Eph 5,14).

May the light of Christ shine into our darknesses and may our own light shine into the actual darkness of the world. We bring light into darkness if: we refrain from spreading misinformation or contradicting messages which may cause unnecessary panic; we only follow the directives of the legitimate civil and medical authorities; we have our hearts opened to more solidarity especially with the poorest of our communities.

 

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Theme:  We are called, blessed and graced

Much of human life is characterized by movement. Workers and students commute to and from offices, factories and places of their business. People seeking better opportunities have made ours a mobile society in which one person in five changes residences annually. As is attested throughout the Holy Bible, much of our monotheistic spirituality is also inextricably bound to the experience of traveling. From the patriarchs to the disciples all were characterized by movement from one place to another. Theirs was not an idle wandering, aimless searching; but rather a purposeful journey assisted by faith in God thus making their travel a useful pilgrimage. Today we are reminded not to lose our sense of purpose and direction to avoid felling victims to sin.

Read more: Second Sunday of Lent Year A 2020   

Theme: Come to Jesus the living water

Fresh potable water is a necessity of life which most of us here in Church today take for granted. Water is reachable at the kitchen sink, in a cooler; it is also available in different flavors and at various prices for more sophisticated and palates. For many people of our generation, water has become desacralized although the need for water has not changed but only conquered. Is it possible, under such conditions, for water to retain its salvific significance? Today, the Church encourages us to be sensitive and respect the scriptural image of water.

Read more: Third Sunday of Lent Year A 2020

Theme: Be aware of evil

Few among us will dispute the fact that the world is fraught with evil. Newspapers, radio or television broadcasts offers adequate proof of its presence. War, victims of violence, millions of refugees and all types of abuse demonstrates pervasive evil in human society. While existence of evil is somehow unavoidable, its origin and the tragedies it produces have been the subject of debate for centuries. Contemporary analysts attribute its ills which plague us into conflict to ideologies and economic imbalances. At the beginning of this Lenten season, the Church invites us to reflect on the reality of evil and see how we can overcome it.

Read more: First Sunday of Lent Year A 2020

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