Year A 2020
Fr Dominic Orih
As we enter into the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we are presented with the story of the man named Lazarus who was raised from the dead to life by Jesus.
The name Lazarus simply means the one who God helps. It is such a symbolic name and one that constantly reminds us of the Divine help that is always available to us all. It is something that we have to bear in mind as we reflect on this passage of the Gospel.
As the Bible relates, Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus, and he lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. But then, Lazarus got ill and it was so severe that the sisters sent word to Jesus to come and see his friend Lazarus that he loved so much. And yet when Jesus received the message, he didn’t go to see Lazarus right away, he stayed for two more days and then went to Judaea to see Lazarus. His disciples were a bit uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus going back to Judaea because the last time he went there, the Jews wanted to stone him. But Jesus didn’t give in to such fear and went anyway to see Lazarus.
On arriving he realised that Lazarus had died and being in the tomb for four days now. When Jesus saw how everyone was weeping for the death of Lazarus, the bible said that Jesus wept. He wept for his friend Lazarus because the sadness in peoples heart hit him so much.
I find this fascinating that the Son of God weeps for the death of his friend. There is something that is happening, and it is something that tells us that God is weeping with us whenever we are suffering in any kind of pain or disruption.
Today, we are ravaged by fear and the suffering that has been caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and somehow, we feel the absence of God at this time of uncertainty. I keep thinking what this uncertainty was for Mary and Martha and the people surrounding the dead body of Lazarus. And I don’t even know what it is like to be in the tomb for four days filled with darkness and death, and yet that is what it is for Lazarus.
Mary and Martha had to wait for Jesus for four days for him to show up. The period of waiting can be devastating because it is filled with hopelessness. I think in the midst of this pandemic going on, that is what it feels like to keep waiting to hear the good news that Coronavirus has finally been eradicated from the face of the earth, and yet what we hear or see at this time is the increasing number of people getting infected. It seems it had to get worse before it gets better. Right now, it feels hopeless, but we have a God who is not detached from our sufferings but fully present in it, suffering with us, going through the pain with us but also restoring our hearts.
When Jesus asked them to open the tomb of Lazarus, he spoke like to a dead body that has been dead for four days. And so, I believe that God is speaking life into our land at this time, into our nation, into our culture, into our church, into our community, and into our hearts, saying, “Rise up!” Every form of death will lead to resurrection and I believe that the kind of death that this Coronavirus has brought into our lives will lead to a resurrection that is deep in our soul for what it means to be human.
When we look around us now, all we need in the face of this pandemic unravelling every discomfort and fear in us is Hope. Let us now not waste the experience it brings to the fore. Not minding the fact that we have to stay home now and we can’t come to the church, and it feels like living in a cell; let us use the opportunity to do the necessary inner house cleaning that we need, to become in tune with ourselves, with the world, with creation, with one another, and with God. St Romuald would say, “Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.”
As God spoke through Prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, “I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live,” may you be enabled to have hope at this time so you can be raised from dead to life as Lazarus was; after all, his name means the one who God helps. And God is in the mess of this Coronavirus with us, helping us, but also restoring us to life.
And let that give us hope!