Saturday, April 1, 2017

Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Ezek 37:12-14;
·         Ps 130:1-8;
·          Rom 8:8-11
·         John 11:1-45

Christ, the Restorer of Life

Fifth Sunday of Lent’s Liturgy marks the end of the Lenten Season and introduces us into the Passion Week. It is the most Sacred Week during which the Church invites us to re-contemplate the meaning of suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.  In his trials, in his suffering, in his death there is hope for resurrection. The tomb, the grave as will be re-enacted during the Holy Week will never be the final destination of Christ – rather the resurrection and ascension. This is true in today’ scripture readings which emphasize Christ as the source, restorer or giver of life.  And reminds us to keep our faith, persevere and be hopeful in moments of trials and seeming disappointments! 
In the first reading, Ezekiel, the priest, a prophet of exile sees in a vision, dry bones of the dead scattered in a field. Dramatically the spirit of God unites together the scattered bones, binds them together with sinews, covers them with skin, and finally infuses them with divine breath to bring them to life. What a message of hope that Ezekiel brings:O my people, Ezekiel says:
 “I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your grave and have you rise from them, O my people. I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land…” (Ezek 37:12-14).

Ezekiel’s vision and parable of the dry bones is  a message of hope and optimism to the house of Israel and Judah. In spite of their past challenges and difficulties of all kind, they shall be restored as one people (Ezek 37:24-25), its leadership and covenant shall be reestablished and the spirit of the Lord and of justice shall be restored in Israel (vv.26-27).

In our Christian tradition we are that new and renewed Israel. In spite of who we are, the dryness we may have experience; and sinners who have dug themselves into graves of sins, people who forgets, who makes mistakes, who breaks the laws and the covenant, God who is full of kindness, compassion and mercy still loves us.  As the Psalmist would put it, “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption” (Ps 130:7).
What are your "graves," "tombs" concerns, disappointments, issues, problems, rifts, weaknesses, bad and unconscious habits, and quarrels, ingratitude, negativity, social, political and economic challenges that you, or we or our institutions have dug themselves in? Any hope? How do relate to Ezekiel Vision of the Dry Bones?

St. Paul, while preaching to the Romans, especially those who were dead in sins, in today’s second reading (Rom 8:8-11) shows us how to relate to Ezekiel’s metaphorical vision of the dry bones.
For Paul those who were in the flesh, in the Church of Rome of his time, that is, those who were anti- God values, selfish, lawless, corrupt, and stuck to old sinful ways of life, or in the shackles of the past shall be brought to new life through the spirit of God.

It is this spirit of God that raises Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday. It is this spirit of God that raises Lazarus from dead in today’s Gospel reading (John 11:1-45), which is very ironic too like the prophecy of Ezekiel of the vision of the dry bones. In any given instances that we are down we can always be up, and be hopeful, and learn from the Israelites who were once down in the grave  of exiles, and for a very long time, in Babylon,… before freedom, before they returned, before they were raised up by the Lord (Ezek 37). We can always learn from Martha and Mary too, in the Gospel, who were mournful, sorrowful for days because of the loss of their brother Lazarus. They must have been frustrated for a while, because it took Jesus two days to respond to the illness of Lazarus. Truly God’s ways are not our ways. God knows and works by his “hours” and time. He knows when to change water into wine. He knows when to heal the royal official son. God has his own clock and watch different from ours. This is the hour of the cross.  The hour of the Cross is the hour of the Father’s true glory, the hour of Jesus’ true glory.

God knows when to say to us, as he did to Lazarus, “Lazarus come out!” Like Martha, in our moments of frustrations and hardships, which could come in different forms, we might be saying, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  Of course, “Lazarus their brother will rise and live.” Like Martha and Mary after our doubts and frustration we want to return to that faith in Jesus who is the life and the resurrection. And know that those who believe even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in Christ will never die (John 11:25-26).

Let us pray at this Mass that, the Spirit of one who raised Jesus and Lazarus from the dead, and restored life to the dry bones of the exiled Israel in the prophecy of Ezekiel, may accompany us daily (Rom 8:8-11) in our faith pilgrimage.  And may we always imitate Mary’s and Martha’s faith in Christ the Giver of Life Eternal, by the way we respond to life’ crises including, illness and even the loss of our loved ones.
Reflection Questions:
1.    What are your “ graves” “tombs” concerns, defeatisms,  shackles of the past, doubts, disappointments, issues, problems, rifts, weaknesses, bad and unconscious habits, and quarrels, ingratitude, negativity, social, political and economic challenges that you, or we or our institutions have dug ourselves or  themselves in? Any hope?

 2.     How would you relate to Ezekiel’s Vision of the Dry Bones? Or encourage others in your faith community to respond?

3.    Can we identify ourselves with Martha and Mary of today’s Gospel and how?  And what entombs you or your hearts?

4.    Do you believe that in the Lord there is Mercy?