Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year A 2020
Readings: Ezek 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
29 March 2020
Towards a new future of life to the full for all God’s creation
Dear brothers and sisters,
I hope you are coping well with the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Here in the Chancery as in a lot of workplaces, we take turns to work from home and adhere to social distancing rules. Modern technology helps us to stay connected, but we still feel a need for human relationships, whether at home or at work. In fact, for all the great things that the internet can do, it does not prepare us to live in a world of change, chaos and complexity. It does not equip us to face with the challenges of life in an age where previous patterns are no longer sustainable. As people of faith, we have a duty to read the signs of the times and to discern what God wants of us instead of reverting to our old familiar ways.
Scriptures for this Fifth Sunday in Lent speaks of the God who is at home with changes and upheavals. It is the God who leads us beyond our known and limited horizons to a new future of life to the full. This life to the full is not static or a closed system but ever expanding and evolving. He accompanies us on this journey towards wholeness with him and with all that he created.
In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel gives new hope to the hopeless people during the great exile. He assures them that God would bring about a new future for his people. He would reconstitute Israel not with the fittest and the strongest but with the lowly, the poor, the meek or the anawim. Using a dramatic metaphor Ezekiel prophesies that God would do an entirely new thing: “I mean to raise you from your graves and lead you back to the soil of Israel”.
The exile was like the exodus in reverse. It was a long and painful process of dispossession. With the loss of their land and everything associated with it, they were also reduced to a stateless people. Yet, out of the utter chaos, disorder and vulnerability, they gained a new insight into what it meant to be God’s people. Ezekiel’s imagery of new life from the grave symbolises this epiphany. It signals a new future, built not with symbols of power but with love, compassion and justice. A new Israel would be known for its radical communion and solidarity.
The Gospel tells us the story of the raising of Lazarus, which is the last of the seven signs of Jesus, beginning with the miracle of wine in Cana. All of these signs reveal to us who Jesus truly is. John is at pains to show us that the ancient God of the covenant who created life, who revealed himself at the burning bush, who liberated and accompanied his people was fully present in Jesus. More than a miracle story about a corpse coming back to life, the raising of Lazarus is about the triumph of God. Though we travel through the reality of loss and reversals, defeats and disappointments, God’s power in Christ is stronger than any force of darkness that threatens us.
Brothers and sisters,
The coronavirus crisis reveals a world that is fractured. It tells us that the dominant mode of human conquest and dominion is no longer sustainable. We may be on top of the food chain, but our survival depends on our partnership with every form of life. We need a radical new way of relating and living that brings harmony and sustainability to all of life. That is what the practice of Lent highlights. We humans are part of the interconnected cosmic web of creation and we need to live a new paradigm of communion with all that is. May the God of life accompany us as we move to the new future. May the present crisis be turned into new horizons of possibility, for us but also beyond us, to future generations and to the world that God loves.