Now that I have developed a Facebook page and a website for the Parish, I am going to be posting my homilies on the website until further notice. These homilies are meant to encourage, comfort, inspire, teach and to connect with you, the people that I serve. Please let others know that each Sunday I will be posting a homily should you desire to read it! Feel free to leave comments or questions! In these uncertain days may you continue to have a wonderful and rich relationship with your God!
In our first reading today, we have this wonderful text from Ezekiel reminding the People of Israel that God is going to act on their behalf. God is going to open the graves of the dead and restore them to the land of Israel. When I do this, says God, you shall know that I am the Lord. Then God takes it one step further. They know they are made in the image and likeness of God – their faith – their history tells them that. God goes one step further and says, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and wilI act.” The Spirit of God will rest in them and guide them to their homeland. God speaks and God acts! In the God of Israel there is consistency. God does what God says! There are no gaps between words and actions.
In the Gospel of John, we have the long, but wonderful story of the encounter of Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd, with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. While at first glance it appears as if it is a simple miracle, there is much in this story when we dig a little deeper. In telling this story, John is reminding us that Jesus is Lord and as followers, we have varying responses to him. Some of us ignore or disregard him, some of us believe that he can manipulate creation and heal it and some of us believe that Jesus is Lord of all – the living and the dead. In other words, we have come to believe that he can raise us up from the dead. When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead he is raised up or returned to the life that he once had. Jesus can heal, he can return Lazarus to his former life but he is about much more than that. He will raise us to a New Life. When we say yes to this, when we believe in this, we are taking another step in our relationship with God.
In the second reading, Paul talks to the Romans about the flesh and the spirit. It sounds like Paul is telling the Romans – that the flesh – our human body is nothing compared to the spirit – that life force that animates us. The early Christians believed that there was a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit and that the flesh was inadequate. Paul affirms that the Spirit of Jesus has power to transform our flesh – even if our flesh is dead, the Spirit of Jesus can raise it up to new life.
Today, we are struggling with the presence of the virus COVID-19. On the one hand we are afraid of the virus and on the other, we think it will not touch us. Some of us are following closely the guidelines offered by the Diocese and the Saskatchewan Health Authority and some of us are clinging to our former routines in the hope that we will be okay and God will save us.
The scriptures tell us that God is involved in our lives – he raises people from their graves and he transforms that which is dead, giving new life where there has been only death. What might that mean for us today?
As I prayed with these texts I was comforted by the promise that God speaks and acts. I was encouraged by the fact that Jesus can and at times does intervene in human life – healing blind people and restoring those who are like the dead, to their former life. I am encouraged also that when our flesh lets us down – when we sin, the Spirit can heal us and give us another chance.
I have no doubt that some of the people I serve (perhaps my own self) will get COVID-19 and will suffer and die. I have no doubt that some of us will get it and our bodies will heal and overcome the virus.
For those of us who suffer and die, the readings today remind us that this death that we suffer does not mean that God is unaware of us – uncaring. For those of us who are healed and are able to return to our former lives, the readings remind us that there is something more than this life. The readings remind us that we are on a journey and that our God has spoken and continues to act. The very Spirit of God lives in us and is able to transform us.
God needs us to cooperate – it is the friends of Lazarus who unwrap him and set him free. As this week unfolds spend some time with God. Hear God speak to you inviting you to remember that the Spirit of God lives in you, that you are being called to care for your sisters and brothers, removing stones from tombs and unwrapping people who have been wrapped up as if they were dead, helping them to live again in their own land. Remember also, this life is not our final destination. We are destined for eternal life with God. We do what we can here on earth to help one another and we cling to the promise that when we die God is in charge – not death. God will raise us up, giving us new life – not a return to this life but a new life in the communion of saints. It is this promise that guides us and our choices this week!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI