“Love of the Resurrection in God”
April 2, 2017
The Fifth Sunday In Lent
Ezekiel 37: 1 - 14 /Psalm 130 /
Romans 8: 8 – 11/ John 11: 18 - 44
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
A wonderful morning greets us again today. What a precious gift of God that He has given us life. It is not just existence, but a life that is teeming with so many blessings – the blessing of family; the blessing of the talents and the resources that we have. Today, April 2, 2017, will never come back in our lives. It is the only opportunity that we can have to thank God for this wonderful day.
As we celebrate and rejoice in the goodness of God, we are in the midst of Lent. Lent is the necessary time – the obvious passage way where we are stripped off of the unnecessary weight that we carry in life. There are many things, burdens and loads that we take on. We have to strip them off and allow us to focus on the essentials of life.
We have chosen “Love” for our themes in Lent. If we want the fruit of love to blossom in our lives, we must take crucial steps so that we can see this change happen. The love is in the heart of God. The purpose and the goal of this Season of Lent is for us to have this same love, this same life of Jesus becomes more evident. The life that desires and pursues the well-being, and the improvement of the life of others, even the life of the people we hate – our enemies.
Lent gives us and makes us aware of the resources and the provisions we have so that we can have I call the “Heart of Jesus.” It is the “Corazon de Hesus”; the heart of Divine Mercy and Love. It is a heart that is willing to get hurt and even die so that others may live. It is a heart that is willing to sacrifice so that good will be seen in others. It is a heart that is willing to give, expecting nothing in return.
What do we do when we are faced with something as tragic as death? How do we handle ourselves when situations which are not pleasant are before us? Sickness; financial needs; expenses; bills to pay that continue to pile up; a marriage on the brink of separation; rebellious belligerent children; failure in school to the point of having to repeat a whole semester; failed courtship; and the list goes on and on. How do we act? How should we respond?
The common reaction in these trying situations as described is to escape and to find a quick-fix solution. People resort to drastic measures. People with financial difficulties go to the 5/6 loans. People with sickness go to faith healers or anything that will instantly give relief.
We still have two weeks in Lent. The theme for today is “Love of the Resurrection in God.” We might get out of focus and want to short circuit the journey we are taking and immediately fast forward to Easter. After all, why linger in Lent? Why linger in these fasting and all of these sacrifices that cost a portion of our lives? Why do we have to go through this when we can instantly have relief?
This is a reflection of our lives because we have seen the ideal of Christianity. When we were born again, renewed, we have the illusion that there are no more problems that will face us; that the people in the church will be perfect and nice and loving always; and that every situation will have an answer. We think of perfection as the constant state that we will live in; and then, we face the realities of the problems described earlier.
This is what we call tribulation. Tribulation is defined as the conflict that we individually go through and that we see between the promise of God and the present situation we are living. Tribulation is the conflict of knowing that there is an ideal life, but there is also the real life that we live each day. Tribulation is the understanding that love is with us. We see hatred, and the despicable situations and this is tribulation because there is conflict. We see love, but we see conflict.
John 11:21-26 shares, “21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
In the first proclamation, Ezekiel was brought to a very awful, depressing, and hopeless scene. It was a place filled with dry, lifeless bones. It was not just corpses or seriously sick people, but a place there were bones that were very dry and lifeless. Ezekiel 37:3 (NASB) says, “3 God said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
Tragedies, suffering, failures are not very pleasant situations in life. In fact, if we had a choice, we would rather not encounter or go through any adversity. We would rather avoid any such dilemma of life, and yet these events in life are real and they will continue to confront man as long as we live. Herein, when we face these situations, we experience powerlessness, limitations, and a glimpse of death. God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man,” which means, “Man is weak as you are, powerless, and limited.”
When someone is diagnosed with a terminal disease, we have a natural aversion or dislike for it. Many are led to anguish, self-pity, panic, despair, and even anger toward God. People ask, “Lord, why me?” But if we face these conditions with a proper understanding of Scriptures and of life and God’s plan, these become a source of ineffable strength. The first Sunday of Lent talked about “Love for the Word of God.” The Word of God is the magnifying glass for life. It is the way to view life, the way God intended life to be; the way God meant it to be from the beginning. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
We face problems and we begin to draw strength from God. It gives us a greater discernment for what are really essential and important in life and discard the nonessentials. What does the Holy Scripture say about difficult situations? How are we to respond and act in these times of despair?
Psalm 130:4-7 (NASB) begins with a hopeless cry, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord. More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is loving-kindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.”
In these situations, God was bringing out a very important virtue, a very vital weapon and lesson that each of us must learn to have and begin to nurture in our hearts. It is called hope. Hope is a very vital and necessary means when we are difficult situations.
1 Peter 1:3 (NASB) says, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," The life we received from God, when we were born again, is a life that is destined for hope and a future. It is filled with hope caused by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
When Martha and Mary faced the death of their brother Lazarus, they were distraught, hopeless. They were ready to give up. When Ezekiel saw the dry bones, he was utterly discouraged. He was in a point of, “What else can we have?” In both situations, a question was asked. Jesus asked, “Do you believe that I am the Resurrection and the Life? God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” These questions were asked because these will awaken and stir up hope in the heart of the hearer. It will stir up and awaken a life of longing and desire.
How about us who are facing life? How about us who leave this sanctuary to face another week of uncertainties? Of trials and confrontations? What situations are we going through right now? It may be too overwhelming for us and how do we live out this hope? How do we make it work?
The obvious answer is to trust in God, but that is easier said than done. For someone going through a very trying and difficult situation, it may not be the natural option to take. There may be people who are too overwhelmed with the burden of what they are going through, the condition that they are facing, and it saps out all the energy in their lives. Can these bones live? Do we have hope? It is important that as we face these situations, God forbid if we have to, but it is important that we equip ourselves and keep our lives spiritually strong so that in any adversity, we know that we have been born again to a living hope. We have been born again to a life of destiny. This life is about a future and a purpose that whatever happens, even death, will have no sting in our lives.
St. Paul admonishes us in Romans 8:8 not to trust in the flesh. When the Bible mentions “flesh”, it does not necessarily refer to the physical body. In this context, “flesh” refers to things and affairs in men’s lives which exclude God. St Augustine said, “Hell is living with a love for things in the exclusion of God.” God is a God of hope and future and hope is born out of desire. It is the very character of God. God wants you; God desires you. We thought that desire is evil or wrong. Desire, used in the wrong way, is wrong; but pure desire is Godly. It is what brings out the true meaning of our lives.
In our Collect of the Day, it says, “Almighty God, You alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners. Grant Your people grace to love what You command and to desire what You promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.”
Many times, we fail to see this in our lives because of so many things happen in our lives. We spend too much time in the ways of the world that our desires become misplaced and misdirected. Many times, our desires are even lost. We have shallow desires like getting rich, to live longer, to have a house and lot or to get a good job.
In Mark 10:46-52 (NIV). “46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want Me to do for you?” It was obvious that the man was blind. Why did Jesus have to ask him what he wants from Him to do? He wanted to awaken a desire in Bartimaeus that it was possible for him to see. Jesus was awakening the desire to say, “There is hope. What do you want? Bartimaeus, awaken that desire for you to see again.” The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see,” and Jesus healed him.
John 5:1-6 is another story, “Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Do you desire to get well? The man was in the pool for 38 years, so what kind of question was that? It almost sounded like mockery. Here was a man obviously handicapped, destitute, and hurting for 38 years of his life, and Jesus has the nerve to ask that question, “Do you want to get well? “Hoy, lumpo, gusto mo bang gumaling? Gusto mo bang makalakad, makapag-inat?” The crippled man was unable to respond and was unaware what to say. The man forgot about getting well.
Everyone has a desire. Everyone desires to be healed. Everyone desires for a brighter future. God placed those desires. We were born again to a living hope, a hope that is thriving, prolific and abundant. It is hope that is destined for doing.
Jesus asked the man, but Jesus was no ordinary man asking. There was no hint of mockery here. Jesus was full of compassion, full of mercy. He was the Love of God Incarnate. Jesus was calling out desire and longing in the man. “Do you really want to get well? Is walking again vital and necessary for you? Do you see this as a priority in your life?” For 38 years, a man who is in this condition can be so broken to the point of despair and hopelessness. He may have lost the desire to even see a change in his life.
Christianity is not about rules and good behavior. It is not about morals, and right conduct. These are by-products, results, fruits of a deeper, weightier, and more profound essence of Christianity. Christianity at its very core is about desire. It is not about liturgy, but it is, “I want to attend Mass.” It is not about reading and memorizing the Bible, but about a desire to do God’s will. “I desire to do Your will, O Lord. Thy Law is written in my heart.” It is not just about a law on adultery, but a desire to love your wife, to love your children, and to love your family.
Christianity is about desire. It is not about obligation. It is not something that will force us. It is something that is birthed in us. We are born again to a living hope. Lent is designed to awaken the true desires of our hearts, to the real passions and longings we have been given by God. There is the longing to raise your children or the longing to love your wife. It is the longing to earn a living so that when Monday comes, it is not like the song verse, “Rainy Days and Mondays,” but “Thank God, it is Monday.” It is about hope! We look for the opportunity to express our desires to express our talents and our treasures. It is about desire, not drudgery.
This is what Lent awakens us to. It is God who created us and placed a natural desire for the life that we have been given by Him. It is this desire that will quicken our lives during difficult times. It is desire that will make us say, “Yes, these bones can live. Yes, I believe that my brother will come out of that tomb.”
How can we awaken desire within us? In Psalm 37:4 (NASB), it says, “4 Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Many people think that desire is about getting a new job or a new gadget. This is the shallow desire. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will put His desire in our heart. He will give us the true desires that will make our lives relevant, significant and with a purpose. To delight means to become pliable; to become teachable; to become pliant; to become adaptable; and to become obedient.
Even Jesus learned obedience. Even though He was the Son of God, He learned obedience. He learned to delight in the Father, so that when the ministry time came, when He had to give up His life on the cross. He says, “My desire is to do His will.” This is why Hebrews said, “Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” The joy set before Him; the desire, the hope that is in Him. Delight in the Lord. He will give you that desire.
Are you already tired of life? Renew that desire. Let that desire be quickened because it is there. Are you frustrated because you had so many failures? God is a God of success and hope! Live that out this Lent!