Homily on 5th Sunday of Lent: Unwrapping biases and prejudices during COVID-19 pandemic

Today, we hear the story of Jesus raising back Lazarus to life. Lazarus was a weakling. He easily got sick. The name Lazarus suggests this: He was weak yet God has helped him. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha who lived in Bethany. They were the three close friends of Jesus. Jesus would often visit them at their residence to rest, eat and enjoy their company.

In this gospel narrative, Lazarus dies and word immediately reaches Jesus. Yet Jesus delays his visit and allows four days to pass. The Jews believes that a person may still be alive with the soul still in the body within three days after death. Jesus makes sure that Lazarus is dead to the eyes of the Jews before he arrives to raise Lazarus back to life again. Jesus makes sure that the event is not a case of resuscitation but resurrection.

On the fourth day, Jesus arrives at Bethany. Mary and Martha laments the delay. With that, Jesus tells them: I am the Resurrection and the Life. Despite Martha’s objections, Jesus goes to the tomb and orders the people to roll the stone. Then he orders Lazarus to come out. Still wrapped in grave-clothes, Jesus asks someone to unwrap Lazarus and let him go.

Our conversion is like the raising back to life of Lazarus by Jesus. Like the story of the prodigal son, Lazarus was dead and now he lives. As in the song Amazing Grace, he was lost and now is found.

However, even if Lazarus comes out of the tomb, he is still bounded by his grave-clothes. He is not yet totally free, not yet completely alive. The grave-clothes prevent him from seeing and hearing, from breathing and throbbing, from moving and touching.

To Jesus, dying is a process. It is not instantaneous. Lazarus is dying. Yet three days or four days have no difference to Hin. Jesus can reverse death anytime He wants. That’s what he did to Lazarus.

Covid19 reminds us that we are all like Lazarus. We are fragile human creatures whose lives are tentative. Rich or poor, regardless of race and religion, we can all get ill and die of the virus. Oftentimes, we forget about this reality. This pandemic is taming our pride and complacencies.

However, even with the rich lessons of the pandemic, we still find ourselves wrapped with the grave-clothes of fear and prejudice. As coronavirus spreads all over the world, so does self-centeredness. Under the Enhanced Community Quarantine, everyone is a potential carrier. Thus, curfews are imposed, roads are blocked, and we are all required to observe social distancing. While these measures intend to stop the spread of the virus, another form of virus is slowly creeping and spreading, the virus of fear and prejudice. Such virus is deadlier. It is embedded in our eyes and ears, in our ways of thinking and understanding.

During this time of pandemic, we must not forget that foremost is love and care for others. Though on quarantine, we should not completely close our thoughts and minds to others. Teachers must think of their students, employers of their employees, the public of the front liners. This is what Lazarus did. He left the tomb to embrace life.

Second, we must not see the other as a virus carrier but as a victim of our collective irresponsibility towards nature and environment. Our greed must have contributed to the mutation of that virus. We must allow our Lord to unwrap our grave-clothes of fear and prejudice and once again be wrapped with the white garment of love and care for one another.