Saturday, March 28, 2020

Fr. Michael Osatofoh Eninlejie, MSP - March 29, 2020. Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent year A

Sunday 29th March 2020
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Ezekiel 37:12-14, psalm 129:1-8, Romans 8: 8-11, John 11:1-45
If there is one thing human beings fear most in this life, it is death. For the past few weeks that the world has suffered severely from Corona Virus Pandemic, we see how people are expressing fear that they are going to die. This scenario has given many fraudulent individuals the opportunity to create fear in gullible ones among us and to even deceive them into giving them what they have. Some have also predicted that it is the end of the world. This has made many people more afraid.
The question that comes to my mind as I reflect on the whole situation, is to ask why human beings are so afraid to die? Is it that we are not aware that we will surely die one day? I think the reason many people are afraid to die is because they are yet to understand that death does not mean the end of life, but a transition to a higher and better life. If we are aware of this, we will not be afraid to die but try harder to die in Christ.
This is the assurance God gives us in the first reading of today. The prophet Ezekiel tells not to be afraid of death because when we die, God will open our graves and give us a new life. St Paul also tells us in the second reading that it is the unspiritual who are engrossed in evil that are afraid to die. You do not have anything to fear about death if you are truly a child of God.
This teaching that Jesus has power over life and death and that he will raise the righteous from their graves when they die is very clear in the gospel reading of today with the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I'm sure the sisters of Lazarus though they had faith in Jesus, would have been afraid about the death of their brother, but when Jesus came, he brought back to life, a man who had died and had been buried for four days.
In a nutshell therefore, we should not spend all our attention and effort on avoiding contracting Covid-19 and be in danger of death, a lot of energy should also be spent on living a good life. Instead of the fear of death therefore, fear of missing the kingdom of God should be more paramount because we will still die one day whether we accept it or not and no matter what we do about it. God help us.
Rev. Fr Michael Osatofoh Eninlejie MSP

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - March 29, 2020. Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent year A

Readings: Ez. 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
Jesus Wept!
The readings of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent in Year A, are specially chosen for scrutinies. “The Scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. They are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good.” (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). This was clearly seen in the story of the Samaritan woman (Third Sunday of Lent), who came to the well to draw water in John 4:5-42. From her interaction with Jesus, she discovered that Jesus is the Messiah who came to give us everlasting life through his words. Jesus told her: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In the story of the man born blind, John 9:1-41 (Fourth Sunday of Lent), we discovered that we are all blind; hence, we must accept our blindness, our faults and our shortcomings and go to Jesus for a cure. Christ warns: “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still blind.” Let us therefore, ask Christ to open our eyes so that we may see him as our Savior, our Lord and our God. In today’s Gospel reading from John 11:1-45, we see Jesus at the graveside of his friend, Lazarus. Christ wept for him and then raised him to life again. Jesus tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Since we are observing social distancing and are unable to celebrate public Mass with the attendance of the parishioners and celebrate the third scrutiny today, the readings are adaptive to our current situation. In the first reading, Ezekiel promised the people that God had not abandoned them. He is with them always to rescue and bring them back to the land of Israel. “O my people, I will open your graves, and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” God promised to pour out his spirit on the dead bones and restore them to life again. In the Gospel Jesus wept for Lazarus before he brought him back to life. He told those standing by to untie Lazarus, who came out of the tomb “tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in cloth, and let him go.”
Why did Jesus weep for Lazarus? Showing emotions, like crying or laughing, can humble and bring us closer together as human beings. We shed tears when we are personally touched by the object that provoke us to tears. Tears shed for the passing of loved ones or tears shed amid tragedy can be said to be tears shed for humanity. When Jesus wept for Lazarus, he expressed his humanity in a very special way that elicited comments from the crowd. “See how he loved him.” The tears of Jesus identified him with our human weakness. Jesus wept because Lazarus, his friend, whom he loved, was dead. Christ felt sad for the pain that death caused those he loved. His tears demonstrated that he is not a stranger to our pains, loss, deprivation and our need for comfort, companionship and love. Christ assures us, through his tears, that it is all right to cry and be empathic, but not to weep as those without hope. He is always in our midst. He may be delayed in coming to our aid, but he will surely come. His delay may be “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” He will reach out and touch us and bring solace to our pains. Hence, he restored Lazarus to life, even after shedding tears for him.
When faced with sad and frustrating situations, such as now, with the coronavirus pandemic and being locked-down for days, we wonder when it will all end. The news is sad and gloomy with more and more people being infected and the number of deaths growing with the day, we weep for ourselves and cry out to God. This is the time to see Jesus weeping with us. Let us be consoled that the Christ who weeps with us, knows what to do for us, to draw us out of darkness of despair to the light of his love. His love and concern for us will triumph over our sadness, pain and loss. We have to trust him enough to entrust our worries and anxiety to him. The book of Proverbs cautions us that “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” (Prov. 12:25). And Peter urged us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1Peter 5:7). While Paul encourages us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7). 
The God who does the impossible will do the possible for us at our hour of despair and worries. We must do what Mary and Martha did - send words to Jesus, then wait for Christ to show up and then run out to welcome him, hoping that he will cry for us and with us. After weeping he will ask us, where have you kept him? What is the problem? How can I help you? Once these questions are asked, we know that our miracle is close at hand. He will call out in a loud voice and restore us to wholeness. He will call for us to be untied, released and set free. Christ needed others to untie Lazarus. He wants us to cooperate with him to set ourselves free from our bondage. We are grateful to doctors, nurses, scientists, paramedics, all health care providers and men and women of good who have joined hands together to fight this pandemic. We must do our part to stay at home so that we may flatten the curve of this virus. We must be set free from our shackles, our frustrations and our doubts so that Christ may give life to our brokenness.

May we never give up hope for we know that after Good Friday comes Easter Sunday. We will fight and subdue this virus. For we know we are not alone. “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). We pray that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is our life and our resurrection may stand by us so that we may be set free from the clutches of coronavirus and restore our world to normalcy once again. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - March 29, 2020. Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent year A

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Lent of Year A 2020
The first reading was Ezekiel’s prophecy to the people of Israel while they were in exile in Babylon. They had resigned to hopeless that they would never be free, and would never return to their homeland. Ezekiel was one of the prophets God sent to give hope to the people. The images Ezekiel used to describe the people’s situation, as we see in the reading, are death and grave. Ezekiel then prophesied spirit, life, and restoration. Ezekiel prophesied, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them… I will put my spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you upon your land…” This prophecy was fulfilled in about 597BC when King Cyrus of Persia released the people of Israel to return to their land (Ezra 1:1-11). The king decreed, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.” … “In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.”
In the Gospel, Lazarus was dead and was four days in the grave. He was brought back to life by Jesus. It was a hopeless case before Jesus arrived. When Jesus was told that Lazarus was ill he did not proceed immediately to visit Lazarus. It took him four days before he arrived at the home of Mary and Martha. Jesus ordered, “Take away the stone.” He commanded, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus came out with hand and foot tied with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. Finally, Jesus ordered, “Untie him and let him go.”
The Israelites were seventy years in Babylon before they got their freedom. Lazarus was four days in the grave before Jesus brought him back to life. This means that sometimes, difficult times can last for a while. Sometimes, it takes a while before God answers our prayers. Therefore, during difficult times, we are encouraged to persevere in prayer. Jesus promises in Matthew 24:13, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
The Israelites never believed that there was hope for them to return to their home land. But when it was God’s time, it came very fast and easy, and with unexpected blessings. The people of Israel did not fight for their freedom, and they left Babylon with so much gold and silver to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Also, in the Gospel, nobody believed that Lazarus would live again after being dead for four days, but Jesus brought him back to life. There is nothing God cannot do, even in the most hopeless cases. Therefore, let us take courage faithfully. God has the final say. God speaks to us through Prophet Ezekiel, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”
A very difficult question is often asked, “Why do innocent people go through trials?” Jesus’ words answer this question. About Lazarus Jesus said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified.” And Jesus said to Martha, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” Last Sunday, Jesus said about the blind man, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:3). In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” St. Paul adds, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, and who are called to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These words of Jesus and St. Paul give inner light and strength to faithful and spiritual persons. Non-spiritual persons are incapable of comprehending the spiritual meanings of the words.
The Israelites were under the yoke of slavery in Babylon. Lazarus was dead and in the grave covered by a stone. He was bound hand and foot, and his face wrapped in a cloth. We may have our kind of yoke enslaving us; we may be experiencing the sting of death and feeling like being in the grave; we may be feeling like we are weighed down by a large stone; we may be feeling like tied by hand and foot; we may be feeling like our face is wrapped in a cloth. As St. Paul prayed in the second reading, may the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead give life to our mortal bodies, break our yokes, raise us up from our graves, remove the stones weighing upon us, untie us and set us free. Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP