Who understands what it feels like to be dead? The question may sound weird because the fact of dying is not what many people like to discuss; everyone wants to keep up with life no matter how hard it appears. The bitter truth is that we are heading towards the direction of death. However, St. Paul has this to say, “for we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).
As we are getting closer to the celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Readings are pointing us to the events that reflect the mission of the Christ on earth. Last Sunday, he opened the eyes of a man born blind (John 9), and the liturgy of the word of this Sunday tells us about God’s gift of life after death.
In the First Reading (Ezekiel 37:12-14), the oracle of the prophet tells us about God’s promise that He will open the graves of His people, have them rise from the dead, and put His Spirit in them so that they may live. In the Second Reading (Romans 8:8-11), the apostle Paul tells us that about the Spirit of Christ that brings our dead body into life.
The Gospel Reading (John 11:1-45) tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ raised his friend Lazarus to life after four days in the tomb. In the long narrative, we discover that our Lord delayed coming to see Lazarus for two days when he heard that he was sick. When he eventually showed up, Lazarus had died. Meeting up with the Lord, Martha, and Mary at different times said, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
At some seasons of your life, you may have wished that God showed up earlier. It could be during the time of sickness, bereavement, unemployment, marriage, or relationship problems. With the current coronavirus pandemic, there is a wide outcry for divine intervention and immediate remedying of the situation. Like Martha and Mary, one could hear the same desperation from Christians around the world for God to come down quickly and clear the mess. One thing Martha and Mary and couldn’t realize was that there is no time that the Lord is absent. David refers to God as the ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Admittedly, the Lord is always with us; He is Emmanuel.
When Martha and Mary said, “Lord, if you had been here, Lazarus would not have died,” they were implying that the Lord shouldn’t have delayed in coming when he heard about the sickness of Lazarus. God’s delay is not a denial, and God’s time is different from ours; it is the best. Our Lord Jesus Christ showed up at a time when all hope was lost. If he had come when Lazarus was sick, it wouldn’t have been different from other miracles of healing he performed.
God Knows and Feels your Pain
The Gospel narrative tells us that when Jesus saw the tears of Mary and the mournful disposition of the people around, he wept. Why did Jesus weep, he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead anyway? Jesus wept to show us that he knows and feels our pains. The Psalmist says that God is near to the broken-hearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
Moving Forward: You shall Live Again
There are various ways we can understand death beyond the usual cessation of breath. Death could be spiritual, moral, or mental. The image of the dry bone in the Prophecy of Ezekiel shows the spiritual, moral, and mental retardations in our lives that needed the reviving power of God’s Spirit.
Our world today needs extensive spiritual and moral revival and awakening. There are lots of dead situations and conditions around us. There are dead faith, hope, and prayer lives; there are dead relationships; there are dead moral lives, and there are dead or stagnant projects and doors of progress. We need to connect our lives to the revival of the dry bones in the First Reading and the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel Reading so that we can live again.
God is not only available, but he is also able to turn things around for us in this dreadful season when we seem to be mortified by a tiny but destructive virus with a crown. Just like the stone that was covering the tomb was moved to open the grave, we need to move all the barriers in our lives especially sin to open our hearts and to give access to the Lord for our revival.
Furthermore, we need to jump out like Lazarus when we hear the Lord calling us to come out. We need to Jump out to enable us to enjoy the next spiritual facility, which is liberation, just as our Lord instructed those who rolled out the tomb to untie Lazarus and to let him go (John 11:44).
As we continue to march and endure the pains of the season, may we remain confident and humble to recognize that the Lord is closer to us now than ever and that in due time he will raise us if we do not give up (1 Peter 5:6).
Have a blissful Sunday and a glorious week ahead.
God bless you.
During the World Sight Day of October 12, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a presentation that indicated about 253 million people in the world as having visual impairments, out of which 36 million are confirmed blind. Blindness is an impairment that anyone with the functional facilities of sight would inadequately imagine.
Tommy Edison from the United States America was born blind despite the impairment, Tommy had grown to become phenomenal with his unusual activities as a Youtuber, radio presenter, and amazingly, a film critic with incredible film reviews. Tommy’s life and work show that blindness is not a hindrance to one’s achievements in life; in fact, being born blind is different from becoming blind to the purpose of life, and all the gifts of God.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, which traditionally goes by the designation “Laetare Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday.” It may seem weird to hear about the invitation to rejoice when the Lenten journey is still on-going; in other words, we are still in the woods! However, we can understand this invitation as it relates to the Entrance Antiphon and Readings today.
In the First Reading (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7,10-13a), we learn about the anointing of David as king of Israel after God’s rejection of Saul following his acts of disobedience. The Second Reading (Eph. 5:8-14) tells us about the light of Christ that would dispel the darkness in our lives, and the Gospel tells us about the events surrounding our Lord’s healing of the man born blind.
When one looks closely at the Readings, one will discover that we do not have the usual Lenten themes like fasting, sin, temptation, repentance, and reconciliation. Instead, we confront joyful events like anointing and divine deliverance. Even the responsorial psalm recalls the 23rd psalm that assures us of God’s shepherding love over us his sheep. This Sunday tells us about the things God will do for us when we have done what He had asked us to do.
Focusing on the Gospel Reading today, we learn about a man that was born blind. Notice that the blind man’s condition turned out to be a subject of analysis for the disciples of Jesus Christ. Majorly, they asked who was responsible for his blindness, the man, or his parents. Like the disciples, we often think that every ailment is an effect of some prior evil deed. Our Lord clarifies that the man’s condition was neither his fault nor those of the parents but that the works of God might be made visible through his impairment. We need to see more than with the human eyes to understand how one’s disability can display the works of God.
Next, our Lord goes on to cure the man, and he does so in a very different way. Spiting on the ground, he makes a paste with the saliva, which he smeared on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. We do not know how he could have made it to the Pool Siloam from that point. It is, however, possible that someone may have offered to take him to the pool, and that tells us that we need one another in our journey from blindness to sight.
Confronting the Real Blindness
The Neighbors and other people who knew the man as a blind beggar were shocked to see him moving with full physical sight. Often God blesses us to amaze people around us. The cured man’s neighbors could not contain his new status as they report his healing to the Pharisees because it was on a sabbath day, and the Pharisees put him on the spot to answer series questions about his healing and who healed him. They even invited his parents to testify that he was born blind.
Notice that the desire to verify the healing and the personality of Jesus Christ prevented the man’s neighbors and the Pharisees to acknowledge God for bringing such a cure to a man born blind. Notice also the man’s conviction and witnessing to Jesus Christ amid the quizzing. He declared that Jesus Christ is a prophet (John 9:17), a righteous man (John 9:30-33), and meeting Jesus again after his eviction from the temple area he declared his faith in Jesus Christ, called him Lord and worshipped him (John 9:38).
An insightful look at the Gospel narrative shows that the man who was considered blind from birth had a profound spiritual sight. In contrast, the Pharisees and his uncharitable neighbors who had physical sight were spiritually blind. The oracle of the Prophet Jeremiah denounced such people as foolish who have eyes but cannot see and ears that do not hear (Jer. 5:21). It takes one with a spiritual sight to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and to worship him. It takes one with a spiritual sight to stand firm and defend the works of Jesus as coming from God.
Moving Forward: “Lord Open our Eyes!”
During the time of the prophet Elisha the Arameans came to attack him because he would always reveal the warfare plan of their king to the king of Israel. Waking up one morning, Elisha’s servant saw a vast number of armed soldiers surrounding them, and he was overwhelmed. But Elisha assured him that those with them outnumber the warring soldiers.
While still not believing, Elisha prayed, “O Lord open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17). When his eyes opened, he saw fiery chariots and horses. When the Arameans advanced, Elisha prayed, and they became blind and confused to the extent that they were led by the hand into Samaria and into the hands of the king of Israel who fed them and sent them back to their king as Elisha directed after restoring their sight.
If the only thing we see is flesh, then there is a need for us to pray for spiritual sight earnestly. We need to have our eyes open spiritually, especially at this point in our human history, when we are going through severe health turbulence with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. There is no doubt that God is speaking to humanity with the current situation, and one would doubt if people are seeing what is happening from the spiritual point of view.
We could also recall what happened during the reign of king Belshazzar in Babylon. He was hosting a banquet for a thousand of his nobles, and when he became drunk, he ordered the vessels his father Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and used them to drink wine. Suddenly a human hand appeared on the wall and wrote “Mene, Tekel, and Peres.” When none of his wise men could interpret the writing, his mother suggested Daniel, who had the spiritual sight to see, and he explained that writing indicated the end of the reign of Belshazzar, and that same night he died (Daniel 5:1-28).
As we continue the Lenten journey, may we focus on the Lord, who has the power to deliver us from the blindness of our day and age caused by our over-dependence on materialism and excessive focus on worldly pleasure. May we become increasingly conscious and intentional about having our spiritual eyes open to see what God wants us to see to that we can live our lives in obedience to Him.
God bless you and stay safe in Christ, Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Reblogged based on popular demand!
Once upon a time, on a hot sunny afternoon, a crow (a specie of bird) was seen flying around in search of water to quench her thirst. For a very long time, she was unable to find water and she became weak and frustrated but she did not give up. Suddenly, she saw a jug of water within a neighborhood. She was excited! She flew straight down to see if there was water inside. Behold She saw some water inside the jug!
The next thing was to get some water from the jug, but there was a problem! The neck of the jug was so narrow and the water level was also very low, making it impossible for the crow’s peak to get to the water. In her frustration, she tried to push the jug down in view of spilling out water, but the jug was too heavy for her…
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The Lenten period is typically a journey of faith. Last Sunday, our Lord Jesus Christ conquered the three-fold temptations of the devil in the desert, and today we see our Lord at the peak of the mountain where he had an experience of transfiguration in the presence of three of his apostles. Why is the theme of transfiguration very important for our reflection during this season of Lent, and why is it coming immediately after the narrative of our Lord triumph over the devil’s temptations?
The First Reading (Gen. 12:1-4a) tells us about the call of Abram. God asked him to leave his kinsfolk and his father’s house to a land He will show him. God also added promises of making him a great nation and blessing him. The reading ended by saying that “Abram went as the Lord directed him.” In the Second Reading (2 Tim.1:8b-10), St. Paul tells us that God has saved us and called us to be holy.
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain, and before them, he was transfigured. Transfiguration means a change in figure. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, his face shone like the Sun and his clothes became as white as light. Our Lord’s change in his figure was so overwhelming for the three apostles to the extent that Peter exclaimed:
Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make tree tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.
Transfiguration and the Journey towards Change
Heraclitus, an ancient philosopher, said that nobody could step in the same river twice; hence change is a constant in life. When God called Abram out from his kinsfolk and his father’s house, he was inviting him to embrace a move that would transform his life and the lives of his descendants. When our Lord Jesus Christ asked Peter, James, and John to come up with him to the mountain, he was asking them to come and experience a location and physical change.
The Lenten season will become worthless if we do not go through the process of change. Notice that in the narrative, the transfiguration did not happen until our Lord Jesus Christ and the three apostles reached the peak of the mountain, and our Lord committed himself to prayers. Here we notice that the transfiguration happened at the right place and moment; during the time of prayers.
The Lenten period invites us to change our positions from the familiar grounds to the place of prayer and divine encounter. Leaving one’s kinsfolks and father’s house to an indefinite location is not easy; neither is it easy to climb a huge mountain. These are indications that the Lenten period takes us through a process that would finally bring us to an encounter of God’s glory.
Notice also that our Lord was transfigured while encountering God in prayer. Jesus did not take the three disciples to the mountain for the fun of it; it was a journey into prayers. “Pray without ceasing,” our Lord would often admonish (Luke 18:1), and St. Paul would also give the Thessalonians the same instruction (I Thess. 5:17).
Our Lord’s transfiguration further tells us that our prayers should not change God (He is unchangeable) but they are for our transformation. Jesus was transfigured while he was praying; our prayers should be able to change something about us.
Moving Forward: “It is good that we are here!”
The best place to be is in God’s transforming presence. Can anyone of us repeat this honest confession of Peter this Lenten season? Do you feel that the Lenten season is taking a lot away from you? Are you fasting and fighting? Are you at peace with the demands of the season, by abstaining from sin and committing your life to prayers?
Let us follow the Lord to climb the Lenten mountain, and by his grace, we shall reach the peak and receive the desirable transfiguration from our disfigurement of sin (Isaiah 1:6). As we march into the second week of Lent, may we pay attention to God’s call that would take us to the location of divine encounter for total transfiguration. God bless you.
Once upon a time, little Jimmy went to the refrigerator and cut a slice of cake against the instructions of his mom. When his mom asked him why he disobeyed, he replied and said, “mom it wasn’t me. I can tell you what happened. I minded my business and my eyes kept going to the refrigerator. Then my leg moved there, my hand opened the refrigerator and cut the cake and gave my mouth”.
“Have you ever been tempted to do or say something bad?” That is the first question. The second question is, “have you ever done something bad following a temptation?” An honest introspection would show that we are liable to temptations and we could also fall into certain sins depending on the decision we make when we face temptations.
The First Sunday of Lent tells us about the reality of temptation with the narratives of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the three-fold temptations of our Lord Jesus Christ in the desert. These are not mere stories but profound transforming lessons in our daily confrontation with temptations.
The First Reading (2:7-9; 3:1-7) tells us about the entrance of the tempter (the devil) in the lovely and compelling story of Adam and Eve. The narrative shows us that the devil had already defected from being an angel in heaven and had become an opposition to God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
The First Reading tells us that the devil (taking the form of the serpent) was the most cunning of all the animals that God made. The serpent comes to the woman to ask a very tricky question, “did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” Notice here that the devil comes with a puzzling question that puts one in doubt about the right course to follow. Remember the times you have a lot of questions going through your mind.
When Eve answers and says that God’s instruction says that they could eat of any of the fruits but not the one in the middle of the garden which would bring about their death if they should eat of it. The answer the serpent gives would be a great lesson for us. It begins by contradicting God’s instruction, “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” Here the devil was implying the God lied to them.
Notice here that the devil comes with a lie and believing the devil’s lie makes one his victim. From this interaction, we notice that temptation happens when the devil presents a false proposal with a promise. In the Gospel of John (8:44), our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that the devil is the father lies and a murderer from the beginning who cannot stand with the truth. Summarily, Adam and Eve sinned because they accepted the lies and false promises of the devil.
The Gospel tells us about the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice here that the devil comes to our Lord Jesus Christ after forty days of fasting and prayers. One would think that such a long period of holy encounter would keep the devil away. The devil comes at the height of your spiritual progress to destroy your entire spiritual exercise.
The account of the experiences of our Lord Jesus shows that the devil would always negotiate with one’s ego, needs, presumption, and false promises during temptation. Pay attention to the three allurements
Notice that the devil knows the power of the word of God and makes extensive use of the scriptures to tempt our Lord. One fact we should know is that the devil does not force us to sin but uses lies to engage our minds to give in to sin. The way we respond determines what we get.
Our Lord Jesus Christ responds to the devil by making vital references to the Word of God that disproves the various postulations of the devil. Observe also that the devil did not argue but at each time comes with a new temptation. The devil will always devise a new tactic. St. Paul tells us not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11).
We have a depth of lessons to learn from the Fall of our first parents and the Triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ. The devil comes with contradictions to what God says, lies, and false promises. To withstand the temptations of the devil, we need to stand firm on what God says we should do. Furthermore, we need to stand on the truth in the Gospel of John (8:32) our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that when we come to know the truth, it will set us free.
As we march into the Lenten season, there would be the need for us to pay attention to the temptations that come our way in various forms and shapes. Temptations will leverage our ego, our needs, presumptions and the false promises of the devil. Let us also pay attention to the movements of our minds. We are as weak or strong as our thoughts. We could see LENT as an acronym which would mean: Leave Every Negative Thought!
Have a blessed season of Lent, and may God give you the grace to overcome all the temptations that may come your way. God bless you.
Once upon a time, there were two close friends, love, and forgiveness. They were so close and had a mutual understanding. One day they came across two other individuals, jealousy and ego, who wanted to become friends with them. Forgiveness was not very comfortable with their attitude, but love asked that they give them time to know them more
Soon, it became clear that ego and jealousy didn’t have any good thought for love and forgiveness as they could no longer function together; love would now go one way with jealousy and forgiveness would take another route with ego.
Love missed forgiveness, but jealousy would allow them to get back together. On the other hand, forgiveness could not function without love, but ego would discourage a rethink to get back to love. One day another old and wise friend called trust came looking for love and forgiveness and seeing the damage jealousy and ego was causing, trust used his strong powers to chase them away from love and forgiveness, and they reunited once more. They thus realized that they could not do without each other.
The Entailment of Love
One of the most misunderstood concepts in the world is love. Most times, people confuse love with fondness or the feeling of excitement. Love is beyond how you feel. It is more about what you do. Love shows itself in the action of the lover toward the loved one.
We have some biblical examples indicating the actionable character of love. The Gospel of John (3:16) tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Here we see the expression of love in the act of giving.
Furthermore, towards the end of his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ had this to say, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Here again, we see the expression of love in the act of laying down one’s life. One common factor in the two examples is that love is sacrificial, and to make a sacrifice, one needs to give up something of great value.
The First Reading today (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18) tells us about God’s first instruction about loving others. Notice that God begins the directive by asking the people to reflect His holiness. He further instructs them not to bear hatred in their heart, take revenge, nor bear grudges against others.
From this instruction, we understand that true love does not entertain unholy and sinful dispositions like hatred, anger, revenge, and ill-feeling towards people. St. Paul makes this clearer in his First Letter to the Corinthians (13:4-7) where he says, among other things:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
True Love Activates Forgiveness
In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 5:38-48), which is a continuation of the sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus Christ makes a practical reappraisal of the entailment of love using forgiveness as a measure. In the sermon, our Lord overrules the conventional “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” with the noble attitude of non-resistance and non-retaliation.
On the concept of love, which in the Jewish tradition was restricted to one’s neighbors (insiders), and excluded enemies (outsiders), our Lord recommends love for all even to the so-called enemies and persecutors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord Jesus Christ answered the question, “who is my neighbor?”
Moving Forward with Forgiveness
The question that could follow our Lord’s recommendation above is, “how can we love our enemies?” The answer is also straightforward, forgive them! For one to be your enemy means that there is an offense against you, and the best gift you can give to an enemy is love not hatred as the First Reading tells us. Mother Teresa once said that if we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.
It may sound weird and complicated for many of us to accept the invitation to forgive those who have wronged us badly. But that is the authentic Christian approach which our Lord Jesus not only taught but also practiced while hanging on the cross when he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Forgiveness would not change what happened in the past, but it does enlarge the future and leaves a liberating positive impact. An author once said that to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you. Loving and forgiving help us to reproduce God in our lives. Often people will hurt us, make us mad, and even make a mess out of our lives. It takes a firm Christian disposition to love again. Pay attention to the following in every fight:
God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.
Once upon a time in an ancient kingdom, there lived a semi-barbaric king who believed so much in the power of choice. For everything, he would ask his subjects to make a choice and any decision anyone made became his or her reward. For instance, if you wanted money, he would put money in one of his clenched fists and ask you to choose.
At some point, he extended the idea of choice-making to men found guilty of severe crimes in the kingdom. He would ask his guards to bring the offender to the public square and the person would choose between two identical locked doors; behind one is a fierce tiger and behind the other a beautiful lady. If one opened the door with the tiger, that would be the death of course but if one is lucky to open the door with the beautiful lady, he would be married to her instantly at the public square.
One fateful day, the princess and the only daughter of the king met a very handsome young man while taking a walk with some maidens outside the palace. One thing led to the other, and they fell in love. Every day, the princess would sneak out of the palace to see the young man at their secret meeting place.
After some time of their love life, the king discovered and had the young man arrested and put in prison. The king judged the relationship as disrespect and crime to the throne because ordinary folks like the young man were not supposed to have a close relationship with royalties like the princess.
Soon, it became clear to the princess that his father would bring the young man to the public square to choose between the two doors. She made contacts with the guards about which door the tiger would be kept for that day and with that information he assured the young man that she would help him, he needed only to look at her at the public square to know the hand she would raise; that is right or left indicating the right door or the left door.
On that very day, the guards brought the young man out and asked to walk to any of the doors he would choose. Turning to bow to the king as the law demanded, he saw the princess raising her right hand, then he turns and walks up to the right door. On reaching the door, he stopped and said to himself, “she loves me so much that she wants me to live but I will be married to another lady, not her I should die rather.” Afterward, he went to the left door and opened it!
Guess what? The left door had a beautiful lady. The princess had said to herself, “I love him so much and won’t stand to see him marry another lady, I will direct him to the tiger and afterward, I will poison myself and die.” The young man’s final choice saved his life and he lived to see that the princess had a different option for him than what he thought.
Your Life is Your Choice
Life is all about making choices and we are as good or as bad as our choices because every choice count. The First Reading today (Sirach 15:15-20) invites us to choose between keeping the commandment of God to gain salvation or leaving it for damnation. The writer further tells us that we have options between fire and water, life and death, good and evil.
At creation, God put into humans the moral “software” of freedom. The book of Genesis has this to say:
The Lord God gave the man this order; you are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree, you shall not eat; when you eat from it, you shall die (Gen 2:16-17).
Now, we understand that God was fair about the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve. They had an option to choose between good and evil from eating the fruit and refraining from eating it. Notice that when the serpent comes to tempt Eve, it began by asking if they have a choice, “Did God really say you shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). In answer, Eve recalls that God gave them the freedom to choose but they had to make the right choice, or they would die.
Moving Forward: The Choice to Do What the Lord Says
In the Gospel Reading today (Matt. 5:17-37), our Lord Jesus Christ continues the narrative about choice-making by restating the importance of making the right choice through obedience to the commandments and teaching others to do the same.
In a more detailed discourse, our Lord makes a distinction and an opportunity to choose between what was said to their ancestors and what he says to them. Our Lord’s reappraisal of the commandments shows that in making our choices, little things we conceive in our minds count. For instance, we choose against killing by stopping anger, and we choose against adultery by regulating the lustfulness in the hearts.
Let us try to be more intentional about our choices as they could help or hinder us in the long run because our choices have their respective consequences. While making choices consider them in the following questions:
As we enter the new week, keep in mind that you always need to make a choice but make it the right choice. God bless you.