Theme: God is Ever Ready to Raise You
As a minor seminarian, I once got myself into a problem that almost robbed me of my highly esteemed vocation. I was on suspension as the case was been looked into while I waited for the final verdict of either returning or permanently remaining at home. During that period, I felt I was standing alone in the whole wide dark world. All I needed then was a reassurance of God’s love for me and a physical manifestation of this love. For once, I felt like one in the grave. I spent my days in the chapel asking God to intervene and one day, I decided to prayerfully read the passage presented to us in the first reading (Ezekiel 37:12-14). I felt these words being addressed to me: “I will bring you out of your graves… put my spirit in you… settle you in your land and you will know that I, Yahweh have done what I said I would do.” It was not long after then that a friend who went to plead on my behalf was asked to inform me to return. For once too, I felt like Lazarus being raised from the grave and like Mary and Martha having their brother back. It was then that I became convinced that each time we read the Bible, we do not just recount events that happened in the past, but that God also speaks to us personally and repeats His actions in our lives.
Perhaps, many of us have experienced similar situations when we felt all hope was lost, before God intervened. It could be a business on the verge of collapsing, a relationship that was almost lost, or an illness that almost claimed a life. In all these difficult situations, the moment we give God the opportunity to manifest His power in our lives, our stories do not remain the same. In the Gospel reading (John 11:1-45) we see how Jesus was invited to the household of Mary and Martha and he raised their brother Lazarus from the tomb even when they thought nothing else could be done. Their story never remained the same. It changed from mourning to rejoicing. May be, at this moment, you also feel like one in the grave. Perhaps, you may have lost your job or a loved one, or missed a great opportunity, or have been diagnosed of a terminal illness and you think all hope is lost. Do not be despaired, remember, God who can restore dry bones to life is promising to raise you from your grave and restore you to an even better condition. Do not forget that Lazarus was even in the tomb for four days before Jesus intervened. Have you invited him in prayer to come over and help you? If you have done that, then wait. Though his arrival may not be immediate, he will certainly never disappoint. So never feel defeated by adversities.
One significant lesson we can learn from the gospel reading is the value of a genuine friendship. Mary and Martha were special friends of Jesus and that was why when Jesus honoured their invitation, he even wept. They didn’t become friends with Jesus just after the encounter but they were already friends before the encounter. We can learn to strengthen our relationship with God so as to foster a more intimate encounter with Him. This can also motivate us to reevaluate our relationship with others. Do we sympathize with those who mourn? Do we assist our friends when they are in difficulties? Do we keep friends that encourage us in our search for God or those that pull us down spiritually? Do not keep friends that will lead you to the tomb. They could help you bury yourself in the tomb of debauchery. Jesus’ friendship with Mary and Martha was built on trust and that was why they had the confidence to invite Jesus. Based on this trust, Jesus did not disappoint them. How much do you trust your friends and how much do you trust God. Do you trust in God’s ability to raise you from your tomb? Do you disappoint God and all those who trust in you? Look around you and recognize those who trust in your ability to assist them in their difficulties. As you would not want God to disappoint you when you call on Him, do not disappoint those who call on you.
Beloved friends, it is important to know that Lazarus means “helpless”. He represents all of us who lie helplessly in the tomb of sin awaiting Jesus to raise us to life. Each of us have fallen into sin, some of us are perpetually lying in the grave of habitual sins. Today, as we approach the Holy Week, Jesus calls out to us “Come out”. He wants to raise us from our tomb of sins. The voice of Jesus is stronger than the power of sin and death. At the confessional, this voice reechoes in the voice of the priest granting us absolution. We should rise from our tomb of sins because as the second reading (Romans 8:8-11) assures us, we have in us, the Spirit of He who raised Jesus from the dead. It is through this Spirit that Jesus wants to raise us from the tomb of sin. As Lazarus answered this call, so are we also required to answer the call to rise from sin and return to a life of righteousness. We have to look up to the life that is not just an extension of our physical life here on earth but an eternal life in heaven. This eternal life begins the moment we give up our sinful ways and begin to live a righteous life. Our resurrection from sin could be the miracle that will make others come to recognize Jesus as Lord and so believe in him. Happy Sunday. God loves you.