Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Fifth Sunday of Lent and therefore we are reminded that it is just another one week from the beginning of the Holy Week and two weeks from the glorious season of Easter. As we come closer to the most solemn and important parts and celebrations of our whole entire liturgical year, each and every one of us are reminded at this point and juncture, of what we have to do as Christians, in living our lives in accordance with the way of the Lord and in having His Presence in our lives, to be filled with His Spirit and His love. Each and every one of us have been blessed with many great and wonderful gifts from God, and it is truly up to us whether we want to live our lives in a way that is worthy of the Lord or not. This Sunday, as we enter into this time of deeper reflection, all of us are reminded that if we have not yet done so, we should make good use of the remainder of this time of Lent to reexamine our path, our actions and way of life.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which we heard the Lord’s words to the prophet Ezekiel and to His people, the Israelites and their descendants, of how He still truly loved them and cared for them, and how through Him they would have life once again. The Lord told them all that He would put His Spirit in them again and they would live, as a reference to the earlier part of the same chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, in which the prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of a valley filled with many dry human bones, and how suddenly right before his very own eyes, all those bones began to reassemble themselves and becoming humans once again, becoming covered with muscles and sinews, and then the Spirit of God coming down upon them all, and before Ezekiel was laid a huge throng of the people of God, all living and breathing.
This was a symbolic representation of how God would restore His beloved people, and how He would grant them new life and restore them to grace and happiness with Him. He would gather all of them and give them His Spirit, to rejuvenate them and bring them back from their land of exile into the land that has been promised and kept for them, the land of their home and the land of their ancestors. God would save them all just the way He has once saved their ancestors from the land of Egypt. Back then, the people of Israel at the time of the prophet Ezekiel had been scattered away from their homeland, exiled in distant lands and had their cities, towns, villages and land ransacked, destroyed and crushed. Their great Temple of God, long defiled by their wickedness and evils, the worship of idols by their ancestors, were destroyed and the great Ark of the Covenant disappeared.
Therefore, this was akin to some kind of ‘death’ in the psyche of the people of God, and God therefore was revealing through Ezekiel that He would restore them back to a new life through Him, when He would rescue them and bring them all back to their homeland. The Lord revealed what He would do in allowing them all to return to their homeland, as how it would indeed happen, when several decades later, He moved the heart of the Great King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to allow the whole people of Israel to return back to their homeland and even to rebuild their cities and the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The Lord reminded His beloved people that He would not abandon them and leave them behind despite the rebellious attitude that the people has shown Him, and despite them having abandoned and rejected Him first. He did not want them all to perish but live forever with Him, as He has always intended.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard the well-known story of the Lord Jesus resurrecting one of His friends, Lazarus, from the dead. In a similar theme to the first reading we heard from the Book of Ezekiel, we heard how God restored life to His beloved ones, and in this case to one of His own close friends. Lazarus was the brother of the sisters Mary and Martha, who were also good friends of the Lord and often followed Him in His ministry. Back then, as we heard from the Gospel passage, Lazarus fell really ill and was on the verge of death when his sisters sent a message to the Lord telling Him about their predicament. The Lord truly loved and cared for Lazarus, but at the same time, the events had also likely been preordained by His heavenly Father, to be the example and showcase of the truth behind the true identity of the Lord Jesus, as the One sent into our midst to be our Saviour, and to rescue us from destruction and death.
Thus, the Lord intentionally delayed His departure for Lazarus’ place near Jerusalem until eventually, the latter passed away before the Lord arrived. The Lord was indeed struck deeply by the passing of Lazarus, and that was the origin of the famous shortest sentence in the entire Gospels and Scriptures, ‘And Jesus wept.’, which highlighted the love that He has for His beloved friend, and the love which He also has for each and every one of us. That sentence, though short, delivered to us the very powerful meaning and revelation that God truly loves us, from deep within His heart, and He does not want any one of us to be lost to Him through death, which is an echo of what we heard in our first reading today. God’s love was made manifest to us in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Who came into our midst to show the perfection of this Love incarnate in the flesh, and which was made even more tangible to us, by the tears that Our Lord Himself has shed.
This was one of the several occasions that the Lord shed tears, the other one being the Lord weeping over Jerusalem, and lamenting all the sins and wickedness that the people had committed, which would have led them into the path towards damnation. God does not want any of them to fall into this path precisely because He loved all of them very much, and does not desire to see their destruction. The other occasion that some Biblical scholars argued as the occasion when the Lord shed tears was when He was in agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane just before He was to be betrayed and condemned to death during His Passion. At that time, the Lord agonised over the great responsibility and burden that He had to bear for us, but He bore it all with love, and some experts said that it was likely that the Lord might have shed tears too at that time, when He remembered each and every one of us and willingly took upon Himself the burdens of our many sins.
Thus, this is where all of us need to realise just how blessed and fortunate all of us are, to have been beloved so much by the Lord, Our God and Saviour, our loving Father and Creator. He Who loves us so much certainly does not want us to be lost from Him or to be separated from Him, and as mentioned, He gave us all His only begotten Son, the Son of God, incarnate in our midst, for this very purpose. He, the Master of Life and Death, the Lord and the Giver of Life, endeavoured to lead us all out of the darkness of our current existence, just as what He has proclaimed to the people of Israel back then through the prophet Ezekiel. We have sinned against God, disobeyed Him and refused His love and mercy many times, but He still cared for us and loved us very much nonetheless, and sent us His many servants, messengers and reminders to help us in our path, that hopefully His words may touch us and lead us to repentance and reconciliation with Him.
Through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we can see that not even death can part us from the love of God. God loves us all and He desires to lift us all up to Himself, freeing ourselves from the bondage of sin and death. And since death is the just consequence and punishment for sin, He sent His Son to us, in order to break the chains of sin holding down us once and for all. This is what we have been preparing ourselves for this whole season and time of Lent, which is to bring our attention back towards the Lord and everything that He had done for us, in everything He did, by leading us out of the darkness and bringing us by His own hands to the path towards righteousness and eternal life. We look forward to the celebrations of the deepest mysteries and aspects of our faith in the Holy Week of Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death, and ultimately glorious Resurrection from the dead, to remind ourselves firstly of God’s love for us, and also that in Him alone we can have true life and joy.
That is what St. Paul reminded the faithful in Rome in his Epistle to them in our second reading today, and which is also an apt and timely reminder for all of us as well. The Apostle spoke of how those who have life ought to have the Spirit of Christ within them, or else, they will not have any part with the Lord, and hence, on the day of Judgment will be cast out and destroyed. This means that we must receive the Spirit of God, the Spirit that renews and rejuvenates us in the same manner as how God turned that valley of dry bones into a vast multitude of living and breathing people, and how He has raised Lazarus from the dead. He had put His Spirit into us, and we have been restored into life, a new life and existence that is blessed by Him, and by this reconciliation and renewed unity we have with the Lord, all of us may enter into the glory of the kingdom and eternal life promised to all of those who have remained firmly faithful in Him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we enter into the period known as the Passiontide, beginning on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as the Passion Sunday, let us all therefore deepen our immersion into the penitential nature of this season of Lent, a time of preparation of our hearts and minds such that we may come into deeper understanding of the mystery of our faith, the love that God has for each and every one of us, and the acuteness of the sins and the wickedness that have afflicted us deep within our beings. Sin comes from our disobedience against God, from our rebellion against His will and the rejection of His love, and God has given us all the freedom to choose our path in life. Now, it is really therefore up to us whether we want to embrace God’s path and love, or whether we prefer to follow the path of sin and evil that many of us have often walked in all these while.
Let us remember that the path of sin and evil leads to nothing but eternal damnation and destruction, and while that path may seem to be easier or much more convenient than the path that God has shown us, we have been given the Wisdom, knowledge and revelation of what awaits us should we continue to walk down that path. On the other hand, if we follow the path that the Lord has shown us and willingly lead us all by His own hands, we shall attain the perfection of His love and grace, and the new life, blessed existence with Him, that begins right here in this world, and then continuing for everlasting life beyond death. Death has no hold or power over us who adhere to the love of God and to the path of His righteousness and grace, because He, the Master of Life, will deem us worthy of Him, and deserve therefore the gift of eternal life and blissful existence forever in His Presence.
Let us therefore do our best, brothers and sisters in Christ, to live our lives well and to contemplate our choice of action, beginning from this Lent onwards, and through each and every moments of our lives so that we may no longer fall again and again into the trap of sin and the vices of the world. May the Lord our most loving God, He Who raised Lazarus from the dead, the Lord and the Giver of Life, through His Holy Spirit, grant us strength, courage and rejuvenate our spirit, that we may continue to persevere in this life and overcome the many temptations and obstacles surrounding us in our journey and path towards Him, Our Lord and Saviour. May God bless us all, in all things, now and always, forevermore. Amen.