Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Life seems to have moved on now compared to when the world battled severely with the deadly COVID-19 virus. We seem to have forgotten how leaving the house without protective facemasks and gloves was unsafe and scary. What about more than 6.8 million who have died because of the virus, according to current official records? May God rest their souls. Amen.
What if there is a cure for death that could potentially prolong life and indefinitely postpone mortality? It is not a joke that some recent biotech research efforts are looking at the possibilities of auto-regeneration of life.
Beyond the opinions of science and pseudoscience, there is a cure for death that we need to discover and embrace as our reflection unfolds.
The First Reading (Ezekiel 37:12-14) chronicles the prophet’s vision in the valley of dry bones where God had taken him in spirit. He was asked to prophesy to the dry bones to come together and gain tendons, flesh, and skin, and it happened. Finally, the prophet pronounced breath from the four winds as God directed, and the former dry bones instantly became vitalized, turning into a vast army.
The vision of the valley of dry bones is symbolic of the mercy of God to reverse any dead situation. Among other things, God said: “Then you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and have you rise from them.
The Gospel Reading (John 11:1-45) is a trilogy of the illness, death, and rising of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus. Jesus was with his disciples in a different location when he got a message about the illness of Lazarus.
Notice that instead of rapidly responding after receiving news of Lazarus’ illness, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. This could be a message for anyone praying and waiting for God to intervene.
The silence or absence of God does not mean denial; it means that God has better timing, so if you are in that place like Mary and Martha and Jesus seems to delay, don’t give up, he will show up at His time, which is always the best.
Science would define death as the cessation of vital body functions. Beyond that, the religious perspective sees death as the separation of the soul from the body powered by the spirit. However, another dimension exists, the second death (Rev.21:8), the permanent separation of the soul from God to hell. It is about this death that St. Paul says: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Continuing the Gospel narrative, Lazarus died before Jesus arrived in Bethany with his disciples. The body was already in the tomb for four days.
Martha met Jesus first and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But she went further to make a faith submission; I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you. Faith precedes miracles. So, Jesus assured her, saying: “Your brother will rise.”
At this point, Mary thought that the rising Jesus meant would be on the last day, so Jesus gave her the shortest funeral sermon ever “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die do you believe this?.” After that, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead by commanding him to come out and asking people to untie him and let him go.
The Cure for Death
According to Bible history, Methuselah lived for 969 years, making him the longest to live on earth. That was a long time. While long life is a desirable quality, it will make no sense if one faces a second death after the first, so when we are talking about the cure for death, we mean the second death, the separation of the soul from God to hell.
The cure for death, therefore, is Jesus Christ, who identified himself as “the resurrection and the life.” What this means is that without the redemptive intervention of our Lord Jesus Christ, there would be life after death.
St. Paul captured the life-dispensing power of Jesus Christ accurately in the Second Reading (Romans 8:8-11), where he said, among other things,” If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”
To obtain the cure for death, the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead provides us with the following steps:
Remove the Stone: The stone represents the barrier between God and us. The door needs to be opened first before any conversation can take place. In Revelation (3:20), Jesus says, “I am at the door knocking if you open, I will come in and dine with you and you with me.”
You need to remove the stone of unbelief, hopelessness, despair, and anger at God, others, and yourself.
Answer the Lord’s Call: Lazarus rose from the dead in the narrative because he heard and answered when the Lord called on him to come out. Often so many things around us block our ears that we do not hear when the Lord calls. The Letter to the Hebrews (3:15) says, “as it is said if today you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
Be Available: Availability is critical for any cure to take be administered. Lazarus heard and answered but still needed to be available to be untied; in other words, he made himself available—the little Samuel in the temple (1 Samuel 3) remains a classic example of purposeful availability.
Regarding the Lenten season, we are invited to approach the Lord in the sacrament of penance for his priest to untie us from the bondage of sin, which is a cure for death.
Moving Forward: Stretching to Eternal Life
Life is so precious that we try to preserve it by paying attention to various preservative and curative measures, but we often neglect the necessary care for the soul’s life. In the Gospel of Mark (8:36), our Lord Jesus Christ asked, “what would it profit anyone to have gained the whole world and loses his soul?”
No matter how healthy and rejuvenated our physical life could be, there is still no guarantee of long life. What is important for us should be lovely life in eternal bliss. If you are reading this reflection, you are lucky because you still have time to purchase the death cure, and it costs only your faithful submission and acceptance of the living words of Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Finally, we learn from the revival of the dry bones and the raising of Lazarus that no situation is too hopeless for God. Trust in His power to revive every situation in His time.
God bless you.