A Reflection on the Readings of the 5th Sunday of Lent

(Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Romans 8: 8-11; John 11: 1-45)


In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back to life a person who is already four days dead and decaying is as unthinkable as the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision in which the grey, dry bones of the dead are miraculously restored to life. The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead shows us that with Jesus (God) everything is possible as long as we cooperate with him through practical obedience. In the episode, Jesus issued three commands and all of them were obeyed to the letter. That was how the miracle happened.

First, “Jesus said, ‘Roll away the stone.’ … So they rolled away the stone” (verses 39-41). The people did not understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the tombstone to expose a stinking corpse, but they obeyed. Jesus could have commanded the stone to roll away all by itself, but God will not do by a miracle what we can do by obedience.

The second command was given to the dead man: “‘Lazarus, come out!’ and the dead man came out” (verses 43-44). We do not know the details of what transpired in the tomb. All we know is that Jesus’ word of command is followed by immediate obedience by the dead man – Lazarus. That shows that even a hopeless man rotting away in the tomb or on the street can still do something to help himself.

The third command again was addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (verse 44). Even though Lazarus could stumble himself out of the tomb, there was no way he could unbind himself. He needs the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death bands the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them.

My dear people of God, we are facing a hopeless situation with regard to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. In this trial period many of us have fallen victim to the fear of the unknown, to depression and frustration. Many are already in the tomb of hopelessness and decay, in the bondage of sinful habits and attitudes. Nothing short of a miracle can bring us back to life in Christ. Jesus is ready for the miracle. He himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

As we battle with the coronavirus pandemic, are we ready to cooperate with Jesus in humble obedience to his command, to roll away the stone of unforgiveness that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face, to take the first step to come out of the dark place of sin and death, and then to unbind and forgive one another and let them go free? We need to obey and set ourself free.

Remember that God works through his human agents. How are we keeping the commands and safety instructions God gave and continues to give us through our bishops, pastors, health personnel, medical experts, and civil authorities? Do we observe all the precautionary measures given to us? Like the dead man – Lazarus and people of his community who obeyed Jesus’ commands, let us obey God’s words given to us through his human agents. Keep praying until something happens. Stay at home. Keep the required social distances. Stay safe. Fear not and stay calm for God is greater than our problems including the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. You are always in my prayers and Holy Masses. God is good! All the time! Remain blessed.

In Christ.

Fr. Herbert Ene