COVID-19 is opening our eyes to something we’ve never seen in our lifetime – suffering; suspension of schooling, social events, work activities, sports tournaments, church worships, and many things that we’re all used to, lived comfortably or mastered proudly every single day. Everything is put to a pause! The worst reality that COVID-19 brings before us is death. Suffering, dying and real death consume our minds and hearts!
Many, if not all, are turning to God because we’re taught and came to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is victorious over sin and death. Amid COVID-19, such faith is undoubtedly relevant, reminding us who God is and what He is – God is Life!
Amazingly, as we close the Season of Lent, the Fifth Sunday of Lent message is loud and clear: God is Life and He has the sole power to save and restore life!
Let us turn to God’s Word and reflect on His message:
In the First Reading from the Book of Prophet Ezekiel, we are invited to reflect on the power of God to restore human bones to life. Only God and there is no other who can turn dead bones to life. He can inject life even in dry, scattered bones. He can do the same with our broken lives and our shattering situation amid COVID-19.
For despondent Jews, this vision was a tremendous encouragement because it gave them hope for restoration after their captivity, as well as their recovery from their prolonged dispersion. “When I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ez 37:13-14) It means life because of God!
In the Second Reading, Saint Paul deepens the amazing reality of God’s power to restore life by unleashing the presence of the Spirit that gives life. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” (Romans 8:11) God promises clearly and unmistakably that if his Spirit has taken up his dwelling is our hearts, then, even though our body dies, he will raise it from the dead like he did the body of Jesus. It means life because of God!
The gospel of John concretely shows this great power of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring life by raising Lazarus. The death of Lazarus makes us reﬂect on the many forms of “death” like COVID-19 is aﬄicting humanity and which make us shed tears of sorrow and compassion. Jesus’ calling Lazarus back to life portrays him as the conqueror of death and foreshadows his own resurrection. Most importantly, as a turning point in his public life, Jesus proves that he has authority over death, and therefore he can claim that he is the Resurrection and the Life.
As we close the Season of Lent and as we continue to deal with COVID-19, we entrust our life and our suffering families in Christ’s power to save us from the present danger and humbly make all efforts to live in the Spirit. Many who witnessed and heard about the raising of Lazarus to life “began to believe in Him”. (John 11:45) We didn’t witness it in person but heard about it proclaimed and believed that God is life!
The interviewer asked Joseph of Arimathea, “Now the grave you lent is yours again. What are you planning to do with it?” Joseph took a long look at him, and then confided. “When I heard that he had risen, naturally I raced to the tomb. He was not there. He had given my tomb back to me. So what I did after that was: I placed a comfortable bench under the trees just opposite the opening of the tomb. In the evening as the sun is going down, I go and sit there and think to myself, Jesus of Nazareth has slept in this tomb and God raised him from death. Joseph of Arimathea will also lie in this tomb, and what will God do with him?’ Jesus had said, ‘I live and you shall live’. I can depend on that word.” (Hans-Georg Lubkoll)