9 March 2008. 5th Sunday of Lent
Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Rom 8:8-11; John 11, 1-45
The context of the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel is the promise of restoration of the people of Israel who have been destroyed by the attacking army of Babylon. The vision of Ezekiel is the image of the dry bones scattered on the ground. The bleached bones represent Israel; and the spirit or ruah of God will give them life. God will initiate the restoration of Israel. The Gospel is the raising of Lazarus which further affirms that Jesus is the One who gives life to the dead. There is a difference between other episodes when Jesus restores to life a person who has just died, with Lazarus who was already in the tomb stinking — long enough for the Rabbis to say that the soul has left the body. Again, it is Jesus who initiates Lazarus’ restoration to life.
To put the meaning of the readings today into our own context, let me begin with a question: Is there any special time in your life when you find yourself overwhelmed by a sense that there is something more than yourself involved, something more than you can account for, a time when something seems like a gift given beyond yourself? Take for example inspiration in a moment of creativity. Many musicians for example accredit their inspiration to something outside themselves. Without that inspiration — for poets, their muse — no amount of work seems to bear good music. I asked Mike Bulaong, one of our students, to arrange entrance and recessional hymns of Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros SJ for our upcoming concert, and he has created a quodlibet, two or more melodies interwoven together. How did he create that piece? He said, the inspiration just came and work flowed seamlessly. From where does inspiration come from? In a moment of utter dryness, it comes and it brings an artist to life.
We experience this also in negative situations when we face our limitations. But in this confrontation, we are taken beyond ourselves into an experience of God. Take for example loneliness. We know what it means to be lonely and finding ourselves alone — even in the company of people, we can become lonely. This is an experience of dryness. And we have run away from loneliness for too long by masking them with gadgets and entertainment. Some have used people by expecting from them to meet our infinite need to be with someone forever — I mean, really physically together, finding a moment when our love one is away very grueling. Lovers say a moment without their partners is like a century of dryness. We expect people to be like God for us who can be with us all the time, wherever we are.
How are we restored in an experience of loneliness? When loneliness is accepted and we don’t run away from it, and discover solitude. That we enjoy also our “me-time with God” — when we enjoy a place where we encounter the mystery of ourselves and love ourselves as God loves us. When we are fine and at peace when we are in solitude, reading a book, praying in a quiet place, walking along the outline of the sunken garden without overly wanting to be with someone. When we are at peace with our time with God, then the dryness in loneliness is restored to a new life.