Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Apr 2, 2017 Views 459 Listen 11 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Ezekiel (37:12-14)

Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, 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. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8)


(R) With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. (R)

If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered. (R)

I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord. (R)

For with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption; and He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:8-11)

Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

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.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (11:1-45)

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus saying, "Master, the one you love is ill." When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."

The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." He said this, and then told them, "Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him."

So the disciples said to him, "Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved." But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, "Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him." So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go to die with him."

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "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?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord." I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, "The teacher is here and is asking for you." As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him." But some of them said, "Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?"

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said "Take away the stone," Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days" Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?"

So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said: "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

The Bible teaches us that God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ to save all people from all fear, trouble, sin, and death. He was "fully God and fully human" in one person. He was God, yet during His life on earth, He became fully one of us. He preached a gospel of love and grace and was full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He called on people to repent for their sins and seek mercy and forgiveness from God, and believe in the gospel. He performed many miracles and wonders, and demonstrated His power over nature and spirits.

The New Testament relates about thirty-five miracles performed by Jesus. The miracles can be classified as miracles of nature, miracles of physical healing, and miracles of resurrection. The synoptic gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke - recount more miracles than the gospel of John but relate substantially the same miracles. In contrast, John narrates only seven of the miracles that Jesus performed and, they are comparatively distinct and extraordinary. The miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in today's gospel is the seventh and last miracle recounted by John (11:1-45). John calls these seven miracles the "seven signs" which reveal the divine power of Jesus. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the greatest and clearest sign of who Jesus is - the Son of God, the Promised Messiah and the Saviour of the World.

Let us have a quick recap of the story. While Jesus was teaching on the other side of the Jordan, in the place where John had baptized, He heard about his beloved friend Lazarus from Bethany being ill. The name "Lazarus" is derived from the Hebrew word "Eleazar" which means "God helps" and Bethany means "House of affliction". So, Lazarus of Bethany means God helps those who suffer from affliction. Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus about their brother, expecting Him to come and heal him. However, Jesus did not respond immediately and even seemed not to care.

Jesus had the power to heal the sick. As a matter of fact, Jesus had already shown His power in all His previous miracles. He exhibited power over the elements when he turned water into wine at the marriage in Cana, John (2:1-11), fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, John (6:1-14), and walked on water, John (6:15-25). He also miraculously healed the son of a royal official, John (4:46-54), cured a man who had been a paralytic for thirty-eight years, and restored sight to a man born blind, both physically and spiritually. So, healing a sick person was not a big deal for Jesus. He did not even have to be physically present to heal the sick. This is very evident in the healing of the official's son.

When the official from Capernaum pleaded with Jesus, who was in Cana, to heal his son who was ill back home, Jesus just spoke the word, "Your son will live". Even though his son was in another town, he was healed, John (4:46-54). Jesus could also heal any kinds of debility, sicknesses and diseases. The healing of the paralytic man and the man born blind is great testimony to the divine power of Jesus. So, Jesus could have done something when He heard that Lazarus whom He loved much was ill. But He did nothing. He neither sent a word of comfort to the two women nor spoke any healing word. He rather allowed Lazarus to die so that He would resurrect him for God's glory, and made Mary and Martha wait, in sorrow and despair.

Jesus even waited for two days before he told His disciples that they would go to Bethany in Judea. The disciples objected to Jesus going there because the Jews there were trying to kill him. But Jesus, even though he was well aware of the threats surrounding Him, insisted on going by saying, "Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." What did Jesus mean by this?

When His disciples expressed concern for the life of Jesus, they were worried for themselves as much as they were for Him. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts and their fear of persecution, made a comparison between someone walking in the day, in the light of the sun and walking at night without the presence of the sun. During the day, the man can walk without fear but at night he may stumble and hurt himself. Meaning, Jesus was reminding His disciples that as long as He was with them, they would walk in His light, and have no fear but feel secured as they followed Him while he went about doing His father's work. In many ways, this was one of the events which occurred in the last days of Jesus' life and clearly contributed to His death. John writes that some of the Jews who were present at the resurrection of Lazarus reported it to the authorities in Jerusalem, and they plotted to kill Jesus afraid that the Romans might destroy their temple and nation, John (11:46-48).

When Jesus finally arrived four days after Lazarus' death, Martha went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home. Both had expressed their disappointment with Jesus for not having been there when they needed Him most, and that He let their brother Lazarus to die. Their grief was the same but they expressed their feelings in different ways. Martha, upon being told that Jesus was approaching, seemed more eager than Mary to go and meet Him but did not fall at His feet. This suggests, her anger or displeasure at Jesus' late arrival. Whereas Mary, even though only left home after she was told of the desire of Jesus wanting to see her, ran to Him, fell at His feet and wept over the loss of her brother.

Whatever their feelings may have been toward Jesus, in the midst of their grief, anger and despair, Jesus engaged them in conversation about life, death and faith. He asked Martha questions that helped her to focus on her faith and on her beliefs about the resurrection. Jesus reminded her that it was still possible for her to have her brother again if she believed in His power. Martha immediately expressed the depth of her faith in Jesus stating that Jesus could still raise Lazarus if He chose to do so, John (11:21). Jesus then put His plan into action. He went to the tomb with Martha and Mary, and at the tomb Jesus was touched by their grief and cried with them and shared their loss. He then raised Lazarus from the dead for God's glory. Jesus' conversation with Martha and Mary transformed the miracle story of the raising of Lazarus' from the death into a story of the fullness of new life for all those who believe in Jesus' divine power. Lazarus' death was not meaningless or purposeless but manifested God's omnipotence. Many of the Jews who had witnessed the miracle believed in Jesus.

What is the message for us?

First of all, we all know the feeling of loneliness, grief, anger, despair, pain and suffering when we lack food and the basic necessities and material things or when we are seriously ill or when we lose a loved one. We cry to our Lord Jesus for help. Sometimes He may answer very quickly. At other times, He does not immediately answer our cries for help. We wonder why He does not promptly respond to our needs, and why He is not willing to do whatever needs to be done to save us from our troubles or save the lives of our loved ones.

Jesus' miracles, such as, His act of turning water into wine at the request of his mother Mary, the healing of the royal official's son remotely with just a word, the healing of a man lame for forty years, the feeding of thousands of people with five loaves and two fish, walking on water, transforming the heart of the Samaritan woman and bringing her out of darkness into His wonderful light, giving sight to the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus from the dead show us that Jesus has the power to give both physical life and spiritual life to human beings. Particularly, the raising of Lazarus, reminds us that God helps thos who suffer from afflictions.

God sees our hearts and knows our needs. There are times He gives us what we need even if we can't find words to pray for it or fail or fear to ask Him for it. So, just because we don't see God answering our prayers right away or in the way we want Him to, it doesn't mean that He ignores our plight or He is aloof. It is up to Him to determine whether or not to give us what we ask for. Sometimes He doesn't give us what we ask for because it is not good for us or for others, directly or indirectly, immediately or ultimately. But He certainly hears all our prayers and, in one sense, He answers all our prayers. No situation, however, desperate, is beyond the Lord's desire to help those who wait patiently for the His intervention and help. Therefore, in our time of need, let us depend solely upon God Himself, and in patience, wait for His response. For in His good time, he will show mercy and heal all things.

Secondly, this story is not a promise that we will never experience death or that all will be brought back to life soon after death. Rather, it is a promise that Jesus is the source of life and hope of resurrection, death is no barrier to the life He offers. For us, believers, even if we die we shall live and shall never die, and Jesus is the guarantor of this. Just like Jesus, we all will be raised from death, provided we truly believe in Him, that is, personally accept and trust in Him as the resurrection and the life.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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