Ezekiel begins: “O my people…” He reminds the Israelites of the very foundation of their faith: God always takes the initiative and chooses them first. They were like dry bones, scattered abroad, but he knit them together and raised them up. God always takes the initiative with us, too. We are a people, not held together by our own likes and dislikes, but by the hands of our heavenly Father. We belong to Jesus. His Spirit dwells in us. The heart of Jesus embraces his closest friends and disciples without shunning those leaders who wanted to see him dead.
Ezekiel continues, "I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” What a word of hope, for the Israelites and for us. Perhaps these words filled the heart of Jesus as he approached the tomb of Lazarus. He trusted in his Father to bring Lazarus back and in doing so to glorify both himself and his Son. As opposed to the fear of death that holds so many people in its clutches, Jesus’ mission is to banish that fear by passing through death with us. The heart of Jesus is a heart filled with hope, a hope that cries out, “O my people, come out to my side!”
Ezekiel then remarks, "...thus you shall know that I am the Lord." It is a call to faith. Jesus had to do the same even with his closest friends. To Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” To the disciples, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe.” And to all the people standing at Lazarus’ tomb, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus could become exasperated when he encountered a lack of understanding and unbelief, but he pressed forward. His heart could not rest until all those standing near recognized the glory of God.
Ezekiel concludes, “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.” Everything depends on God’s promise, his promise of faithful love. If we want to know the essence of what lies in the heart of Jesus, it is this. John puts it this way: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.”
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpts from Father Vincent's homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A.