Friday, March 23, 2012

Homily 5th Sunday of Lent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 5th Sunday of Lent Year B:  Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:3-4, 12-15; Heb 5:7-9 and John 12:20-33

“When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to myself” ( John 12:32 cf. 3:14-15).

Christ the Rallying point of Our Salvation:

This passage from John’s Gospel, captures the theme of  5th Sunday of Lent, Sunday before Palm Sunday. Today's readings not only usher us into the Passion Week, but remind us what we celebrate today, and what we anticipate for tomorrow. We celebrate today Christ, the Gospel and the source of eternal life. We also anticipate his victory on the cross as the rallying point of our salvation history.

This salvation history goes back to creation, the call of Abraham, the covenant, the exodus, the sinaitic relationship and the experience of Israel in the wilderness, their rebellions and God’s acts of discipline, sometimes through “poisonous snakes” in history. In the book of Numbers chapter 21:9, our merciful God commands Moses to make a poisonous serpent of bronze and put it on the pole so that every covenant-breaker and sinners who are bitten and are repented to  look at it shall live;

“For just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the son of man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

For Prophet Jeremiah persistence sin, idolatry, looking at the opposite direction, instead of looking at God, led to the covenant breaking. Yet a new covenant shall be established, still based on God’s Torah (Jer 31:33). With it God will once again gathers the house of Israel from north to south, the two sisters ( Jer: 3:4-11), whom Prophet Ezekiel calls Oholah and the Oholibah (Ezek 23). This new covenant will be written in the heart of believers without ink or paper. This is the clean and pure heart we pray in Psalm 51 “create a clean heart for me , O God.”

 Brothers and sisters, with this clean heart, we are invited to know, to feel God’s love, his affection and forgiving grace. It is a covenant of divine mercy, forgiveness and hope for salvation which God the Father offers us through his sojourn(sorjorno) in Christ, his missionary activities, miracles and signs, his passion, death, and resurrection.

The Letter to the Hebrews, the 2nd reading affirms  God's sojourn in Christ, God’s incarnate, as the rallying point or the source of salvation for all believers:

“In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death… though he was Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered,…he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Yes, at the foot of the cross shall stand those who rejected Christ (those who thought like Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and friends of Pilate) and those who accepted our Lord. Those earlier bitten by “doubt” like the rebellious Israelite will look with repentance spirit upon the cross for salvation. Joseph of Arimathea will be there, women and Beloved Disciple will be there including the mother of Jesus.  Nichodemus, another crepto-believer will be there, Jews and Gentiles those Roman soldiers who persecuted Christ, who ironically put Christ on the cross, all will be drawn, some ironically to witness, to look upon the victory of the Cross(John 18-19).

As we look forward to  the Passion Week, and as Jesus is about to depart,  let us realize that,  obedience to God, his covenant and of willing sacrifices to serve him through our neighbors will never be in vain (Heb 5:7-9), the best way to follow Christ!

 It also would include, how we imitate his endurance, his heart, the heart of Jesus, his moral courage, his forgiving way of life, the way he has always lifted us up away from troubles and dangers. We can do this through how we forgive those who acts like Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin or Pilate towards us.  As Christ has lifted us up, may we empower and lift up others, particularly those we meet daily, the poor, the weak, the needy, the less-privileged, friends, colleagues and family members, through  our gentle words of encouragement, charity, mutual respect, and love that invites them to share in Christ, who is the source of eternal life and the rallying point of our salvation, "when I am lifted up I shall draw everyone to myself."