Saturday 5 April 2014

FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT - April 6, 2014 - Hope for the hopeless, Life for the lifeless

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45

Why do we keep visiting the old and infirm and those in hospitals when we have no miracle drug to take away their pain? Why do we commit ourselves to the political process when there is so much cynicism and a malaise of despair in politics today? Why does the Church through her priests, religious and laity continue to reach out to those in need despite the tremendous opposition by vested interests and the attempts at destruction of those works by those who cannot bear to see the poor get their due and rights? The prime reason is because we continue to believe that God is still in charge, that he is still in control and that with his help and hope in him we will overcome.

“The smell of death is everywhere. The pictures you see on TV do not tell the whole story. You only see the devastation in those pictures. But when you are here, you not only see the devastation, but you smell it, no matter where you go or what you do.” Those who visited the tsunami disaster areas described the scene in this way time after time. The very smell of death permeated the air. This could also be a description of what Ezekiel may have felt when the Lord challenged him to see that he would open the graves of the dead of Israel and restore them to life again. Yet, the Lord did indeed act in accord with his word and life was restored. Death which is the absence of the breath of God’s spirit was transformed to life by the life giving spirit of God. Ezekiel realized that there was no limit to God’s power to save and that everything was possible for God. He continued to hope and communicated this hope to all of Israel. Even in exile in Babylon, Israel must not give in to despair, but hope. The Psalmist expresses this hope in the Lord. He is so confident of the mercy of God and his power to redeem that even from the depths of despair he knows that the Lord will hear his cry for help.

Martha, the sister of Lazarus, despite her verbal acceptance of Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life, did not expect that her brother would be raised and brought back to life again. This is why when Jesus asks for the stone to be removed from the tomb, her focus is the smell of death. The reason for Jesus’ great distress was not because of the insincerity of the mourners, nor because the people did not believe that he was the source of life and stood among them, not even because he was forced to perform a miracle in public with the crowd present, but in all probability because of what sin and death had done to humanity. They had succeeded in robbing humanity of hope. The tears that Jesus sheds, while being an acknowledgement of what sin and death are capable of doing, are not tears of despair. Physical death is indeed difficult to accept, but it surely is not the end. Thus, we are not asked not to weep, but only not to give in to despair, not to lose hope.

However tempting it might be, however human, however understandable, hopeless despair is not a Christian way of living. However painful our current circumstances, and however agonizing our honest questions—about job loss, wayward children, financial disaster, chronic sickness, destruction of works and institutions that have been painstakingly built, false allegations made by vested interests—ultimately things will get worse, for nothing can compare to the horrible specter of death that awaits us all. But Christian faith believes that God in Christ will conquer and transform even that ultimate enemy death.

Paul’s letter to the Romans talks about the same Spirit of God that gives life.  He explains that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and is responsible for giving us life. 

As we near the end of Lent, we are being reminded that God’s Spirit is the source of our life as a community.  We are not only being prepared for Christ’s resurrection but our own.

We can make some choices about how we get to Easter.  We can choose not to focus on the things of the world that distract us and drain our life from us.  We can choose to resist loving or accepting some more than others because they are different or think differently.  We can deny those things that satisfy a sense of artificial power based on material things. We can choose to nurture a sense that we are individually more important than who we are together, as a family.

Or we can be restored by allowing the Spirit of God to give us life.  We can choose to live as Jesus lived.  We can live our call to be a community of faith focused on the strength of our unity.  We can give ourselves over to be restored by letting those things that separate us from God and each other die and be resurrected in Spirit to life as faithful believers. The choice rests with us. 

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