Homilies

5th Sunday in Lent
Ez. 37:12-14, Rom. 8:8-11, Jn 11:1-45
Miracles Still Happen Daily . . . if we Believe . . . Do we?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 2 April 2017

Recently, someone shared with me about what happened to one of her friends Michelle (not her real name), who became pregnant with her child, only after some years of her marriage.  Indeed, Michelle’s prayers were answered and she was so happy.  However, during Michelle’s sixth month of pregnancy, she was suddenly diagnosed with serious cancer.  Michelle’s family and friends were all so shocked and did not know what to do.  As Michelle loved her child in her womb deeply, she decided to stop all her medical treatment.  This was because to continue the cancer treatment would endanger her child.  To Michelle, given the choice, her child’s health and safety was more than her own health and life. 

Everyone was totally helpless and could only storm heaven and beg God for a miracle.  When Michelle eventually gave birth, her child was perfectly normal and healthy, and what’s more?  Michelle’s cancer disappeared and she was cured.  Medical science has no explanations to such happenings.  But, we as Christians have both an explanation and an answer.  We call this a “miracle”.  By this we believe that God has intervened into Michelle’s life and her baby’s life.  God who saw Michelle’s heroic courage and unconditional love for her child, chose to restore her health and protect her baby from any harm.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we think that this true story of Michelle’s miraculous cure is truly amazing, then what we just heard proclaimed in today’s Gospel of St John is even more stunning!  When Jesus asked that Lazarus’ tomb stone be rolled away, Martha’s response to Jesus was, “Lord, by now (my brother) will be smelling; he had died four days ago?!”  To this Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that if you believe, you will see the Glory of God? 

And so what happen next?  The Gospel tells us that when the stone was rolled aside, Jesus prayed to His Father, and then called out to Lazarus, “Lazarus, here!  Come out!”  Lazarus, the dead man then came out of his tomb; his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind them, let him go free.”  Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believe in Jesus. 

However, there were still many others who only saw the physical raising of Lazarus to life, but could not see how the miracle pointed to Jesus being the Messiah; the Resurrection and the Life that they were waiting for.  In fact, these non-believers went on to report the event to the authorities who then investigated what had happened, and this led them into being determined to kill Jesus.  This is not surprising indeed.  Even in today’s world, there is much in social media that are “determined to disfigure, denounce and destroy the Truth about Jesus, and His Good News of Salvation” through all forms of deceptive half-truths that would convince the ignorant and those whose faith are weak. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, one of the main reasons why many of us find it difficult to put into practice the faith that we believe in is because we tend to mix our emotional feelings with our faith.  This is more evident when we are going through different kinds of pains and trials of life.  And when pain challenges our life, the tendency is to distance ourselves from God as though God is the cause of our sufferings and pain.  And if we are not careful, our pain and suffering would develop into anger towards God.  Over time, we may even blame God for our sufferings, and worse still eventually reject God, the Church and Her Teachings, and finally stop praying, stop coming to Mass and sadly, even lose our faith. 

If we take our faith for granted, this is a common pattern of how many people, and even we, can lose our faith in Jesus, as our Lord and Saviour.  And, when that happens, many would go looking for other “gods” in life through other religions . . . Still others look for peace through: “yoga, feng-shui, crystal healing, different forms of “wellness and health” . . . fortune telling, astrology . . . and often they become superstitious about everything that happen to them . . . hoping for “better luck” that their problems in life would end . . . But, what almost inevitably happen is that their lives would become even more complex and confused and empty. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, when we reflect on the reaction of Martha and Mary in today’s Gospel, in experiencing the deep grief and loss of their bother who had died, they were somewhat “disappointed” with Jesus for taking two extra days to arrive. And so, when Martha ran up to Jesus and met Him she said, “Lord, If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  The crowds on the other hand were sceptical when they saw Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ death, and remarked, “He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?” 

However, fortunately, unlike the many who were sceptical and faithless in the crowd, Martha and Mary were not totally taken up by their grief and sorrow of their brother’s death.  Their remarks showed that even as they were “disappointed” that Jesus arrived late, they still had faith that Jesus could use His divine power to heal Lazarus for they said, “If You had been here . . . my brother would not have died, but I know that even now, whatever you ask of God, He will grant you.”  And, when Jesus replied, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.  Do you believe this?”  Martha immediately replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world.” 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us remember that in all of Jesus’ miracles of curing the sick, the blind, the expelling of the possessed, the forgiving and converting of great sinners; all of them were possible only when the people had faith in Him as their Messiah, and the Son of God, like Martha and Mary in today’s Gospel; and not because they wanted Jesus to perform a miracle for some selfish needs. 

And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as I draw our reflection to a conclusion, let us remind ourselves that: first, today’s Gospel invites us to have a faith that is like that of Martha’s and Mary’s faith.  This is the type of faith that is realistic, but deep, regardless of the pain they encounter in life.  And so, even as Martha and Mary were deeply saddened that their brother whom they loved deeply had died, they never wavered in believing in Jesus. 

Second: in our true story of Michelle’s cure from cancer during her pregnancy, and her child’s good health, let us never doubt, but believe even more deeply that God is alive . . . and that His Protective and Caring Love for us can be experienced in our daily living.  However, we must dare to trust Him more fully and more wholeheartedly.  And sincere prayers can turn what is humanly and medically impossible, possible!  

In other words, as I shared earlier, we must remember, never to allow the emotions of our pain and sufferings and the trials of life, to draw us away from God.  But, if we do, then our faith may drift and if this is allowed to continue, our faith will surely one day become diluted and distorted; and simplistic and superficial.  

And such a faith may likely make us more vulnerable to being lured into the fantasies of achieving a “false peace”, that need not believe in Jesus as our Saviour and His Good News of Salvation.  But, sadly, such false peace can only weaken us further, and tempt us into seeking all kinds of alternatives like “crystal healing, and dabbling into all kinds of superstitions and other exotic sounding approaches” of seeking “peace” and meaning in life . . .

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the fundamental Truth in life is that we need Jesus who is really and already physically present to us in the Eucharist, at Holy Communion and in all the Sacraments.  He is indeed, the Resurrection, the Truth and the Glory of Eternal Life, as proclaimed in today’s Gospel? 

Otherwise, “Do we want to join the ranks of those many people who are on the verge of or have already lost their faith?  If not, then let us not take God’s graces, blessings and the gift of our precious faith for granted.

 

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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