Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 29, 2020
“Proclamation of Profitable Life”
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
The theme for this Fifth Sunday in Lent is “Proclamation of Profitable Life”. God is the Source of life. He is the Lord of life. Nothing and no one can take away this life that God has given because He owns us.
All men have fears. It may be a fear of height, fear of uncertainty, fear of insects, fear of the future or the greatest fear of them all which is the fear of death. Right now, there is a fear or a scare brought about by this invisible virus that causes anxiety among people.
I have good news for everyone! Jesus is Lord over death! He has conquered death, hell and the grave. In Hebrews 2:14-15, it says that Jesus was made incarnate so that He can destroy him who had power of death and his works and so that Jesus could free those for fear of death had been subject to slavery all their lives. Jesus came to give us life and to free us from the fear of death.
The Old Testament reading in Ezekiel is a very familiar story that gives a picture of hopelessness – a picture of dry bones, of utter hopelessness, of despair, and of death. Notice how God used man to speak His words authoritatively. It was not the prophet’s words or man’s words, but God words. It was His words that commanded the dry bones to come back to life.
If someone in authority speaks, his words are fulfilled. When a judge says, “Guilty!” the guilty person is sentenced. If the President says that we will be on enhanced home quarantine, we follow. If the priest says the words of Jesus Himself, “This is My body, This is My blood,” then it is the body and blood of Christ because the priest speaks the authority of Jesus Himself. If God says to the dead bones, “Come alive,” they will come alive because He has authority over death.
In Ezekiel 37:12, it says, “I will cause you to come out of your graves, and you will know that I am the Lord. I will put My spirit within you, and you will come back to life and I will place you on your own land, and you will have an abundance.” The restoration of God’s people has always been His will. God always restores His beloved from sin, brokenness, distress and turmoil to health, wholeness, and fullness of life. We cannot do it ourselves. We can’t deliver ourselves. Yahweh saves!
Jesus, in the gospel today, demonstrates and fulfils this in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In Ezekiel, God said, “When I call you out of your grave, you will know I am the Lord!” What did Jesus do? He called Lazarus out of the grave, he who had been dead for four days. This is how Jesus is Lord over death. In fact, Jesus intentionally delayed His coming. Like in the place of dry bones, the death of Lazarus presented a picture of extreme hopelessness and death. Jesus fulfils Ezekiel’s prophecy and He declared Himself as the Resurrection and the Life.
Jesus wept because He loved Lazarus. Lazarus represents us whom Jesus loved and who needed to be delivered from death and from chains that bind us. Jesus wept and He suffers with us in our distress and in our despair and He gives us hope. Jesus authoritatively called out Lazarus and said, “Lazarus, come out” and with the same authority, He commanded said, “Unbind Lazarus and let him go.” Many saw it and believed.
This Corona virus has caused us despair, uncertainty, fear and has bound us and imprisoned us and has disabled us to do things that we need to do likened to Lazarus where he was bound and imprisoned. This is not God’s will. God’s will for us is freedom, fullness of life, an abundant life; but sometimes, He allows thing to happen. Jesus delayed His coming to Lazarus so that He can display His Lordship over death.
In Romans 8, St. Paul says, “God causes all things to work together for good.” It does not say, “God causes all things.” Some attribute evil things as the work of God. Some say that the current pandemic came from God. No! God did not cause this. What God causes is good for He is good and this is His nature. Only good comes from Him. The perversion, the destruction comes from the enemy. The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. This is the opposite of God’s work where He sent Jesus so that through Him, we might have life and have life abundantly. God causes all things, good or bad, to work together for good. He can turn this situation around to cause it to turn to good. He is working through this. He is doing something. Recognize what God is doing.
Listen! The pandemic will end! It is not lord! Jesus is Lord! The pandemic will end and we will rise again! When we do, we will come out stronger, more blessed, and mature. Jesus is calling us, “Come out of the grave that this virus is causing you! Come out of this tomb! I command this virus, this pandemic to unbound My people and let My people go!”
This pandemic has no authority over us! God has all authority! God is the same yesterday and today – forever and ever blessing. What God did to the Israelites in delivering them out of Egypt, letting His people go, He would do it now, too! His will for man has always been fullness of life. God gave Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and the others life. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. God’s will for us is not destruction or calamity.
In Exodus 3:16-17, God said to Moses, “I am indeed concerned about My people and what has been done to them by their oppressor, Egypt.” Egypt was the oppressor of God’s people before; Corona virus is God’s oppressor today. God is truly concerned about our affliction to say, “I will bring them up out of their affliction.” God told Moses this, and He also tells this to us today.
In Exodus 3:21-22, God says, “When you go, you will not go empty-handed. You will plunder Egypt.” We will come out of this pandemic stronger, more blessed, more abundant and full! We will not just survive this. We will come out of this fuller and stronger and more blessed. God’s will is to let go of His people from their oppressors.
Our oppressor is not just COVID 19. Others are oppressed by their fears, their bondages, their addictions and their depression. God’s will for us is fullness of life. His prophecy to Zechariah, “His will for us is to be free from our enemies so that we can be free to worship and serve our God.” His will is to first free us from any oppression so that we can serve and worship Him and more importantly to display His likeness once again.
God is using this oppression, this pandemic, not just so that we can survive this physically, but so that we can be trained and be molded to be a people of unity, of solidarity and love. May we not miss what God is doing! We are to display the Divine nature of God in helping one another and loving one another. This is not the time to point fingers! Displaying the Divine nature of God is the way to plunder our oppressor. This is how we will hurt them where it hurts the most. God’s will for us of fullness of life is not breathing, staying alive and having material things. These are part of the abundant life, but the fullness of life consists more of being like God! It is walking in the image and likeness of God. This is how He created us in the first place. We need to be patient as God works in us. Allow Him to mold us into His image and into His likeness.
Reading from Psalm 40:1-3, it says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”
Church, realize that God is working in us and using us so that after we come out of this situation, victorious, more blessed and displaying the Divine nature of God, many will see and hear and will trust in the Lord. Do not lose hope! Easter is just around the corner. It is coming soon because Jesus is the Lord, not death. He is the Resurrection and the Life. God’s plan for us, through Him, is for welfare, life, and not calamity. Greater things are yet to come and all of God’s people, you and I, can be witnesses like Lazarus and the Israelites. Life has always been God’s plan and will for us. It has always been, is, and ever will be just like the way it is in the kingdom of our God.