My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, I greet you all in the most holy name of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. Christ is risen! Alleluia!!! For this reason, the Psalmist today says: this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” “We have been waiting for this day since the last forty days. Let us, therefore, celebrate the joy of Easter, the victory of Christ over death, sin and darkness. The resurrection of Christ means that everything changes for the better, for the whole of humanity, those who believe in Jesus and non-believers alike. As we gather here today and as Christians gather today all over the world to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we have no doubt about the fact of the resurrection of Christ.
However, we know that over the centuries, many have refused to believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. They have insisted that the story of the resurrection was concocted by the Apostles even if the fact and the evidences surrounding the resurrection of Jesus are overwhelming. First of all, while still alive in the course of his ministry, Jesus, several times talked about and predicted his own death and resurrection; something that had never been heard of before. And truly indeed he died. All the accounts, even non-Christian accounts about Jesus confirmed that he died. Pilate verified his death. Mt. 27: 62ff testify that he died; both Pilate and the Jewish leaders made sure his tomb was secured by sealing it off and posting soldiers to keep watch.
During the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, no one disputed his death. He was buried and his tomb was heavily guarded, not only by a large stone but also by a band of disciplined Roman soldiers. The Jewish elders knew it and according to Mt. 28:11-15, they had to bribe the soldiers to put out a false story to the effect that the disciples of Jesus stole his body from the tomb while they were asleep. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus appeared to many different people in different places and at different times. He was seen by more than 5,000 people according to St. Paul’s calculation, and he was with his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection. These facts cannot be falsified. Furthermore, in Acts 10: 40-41, the first reading for the Mass of Easter Sunday, St. Peter gave the facts.
He said, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” This undeniable and verifiable truth is the source of great joy; namely, that he is truly risen indeed. Dear friends, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus at Easter comes with the assurance that even though all who believe in him would also experience death but they would rise again unto everlasting life. One of the articles of our faith which we profess in the creed Says: I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life to come. It is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that guarantees our own resurrection as his followers.
St. John Chrysostom encourages us to fully relish and partake in the benefits of Christ resurrection just as we have partaken in his passion and cross. According to John Chrysostom, “by our forty days’ observance we have wished to … feel something of the Cross at the time of the Lord’s Passion, we must strive to be found partakers also of Christ’s Resurrection, and pass from death unto life 1 John 3:14. We must all be partakers in Christ’s resurrection. What this means is that, “we must die, therefore, to the devil and live to God: we must perish to iniquity that we may rise to righteousness. Let the old sink, that the new may rise” The resurrection of Christ which stands as guarantee for our own resurrection from the dead brings to mind again the vision of the valley of dry bones that the Prophet Ezekiel had in Ez. 37:1-28. Everything in the valley was dead, the bones of all the people who had died lying in the valley had been bleached by the elements, sun and rain, over time.
When Ezekiel was asked whether the bones could live again, the response of Ezekiel was that of faith. He simply said that only God knows what can happen or not. In that way, he showed trust in God that God could do whatever he wished. Even what appears impossible can be made possible by God if He wished to. He also made himself available to God to carry out the action needed in order that the bones would come to life. So, God asked him to prophesy and he did. Indeed, by the power of God, the valley of dry bones became a place of living beings, all the dry bones came to life again.
That vision of Ezekiel was a prophecy that was directed to the nation of Israel, that it would rise again from slavery in the land of their exile into restoration and freedom in their own land. So, it did happen. But that prophecy is also about us, the new people of Israel. All the dry bones in our lives would come to life again through Christ our Lord. As the dry bones came back to life and as Jesus came back to life at his resurrection, so shall all the aspects of our lives that are dead and are looking impossible come back to life again through Christ our Lord.
Whatever may be dead in our lives: whether it is in our work or business, whether it is in our relationships or in the concerns over our children and the future, we pray that God would make them live again. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope that not only our spiritual lives but also the material and mundane areas of our lives as individuals and as a country shall rise again. All that is required is that we behave like Ezekiel; have faith that God is able and then do whatever he requires us to do, follow his instructions. We shall be renewing our baptismal promises at this Easter Mass.
We shall renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises, we shall renounce sin. We shall profess our faith in God the Father Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, in Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son, in the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Catholic Church; we shall express our faith in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the Body and life everlasting. We must keep these promises in view all the time because keeping or not keeping them determines whether we are at right with God or not. If we renew our baptismal promises today, let us do so deliberately, meaning every word that we say and making a resolution to keep them.
If by any chance, we have not been practicing or living our faith, if we have been engaged with groups of people that discourage us from living the faith, if we have been part of any cult or cultic activities, this Easter is God’s invitation to come back to him and live the new life of the resurrection. As scriptures always tell us what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his immortal soul. We must live the value of love of God and love of neighbour in order that our spiritual lives may be fully alive.
May the Lord bring back to life again all that is dead in our spiritual lives and restore us to life in him with the Holy Spirit leading us on. We know that the state of our country at this point in time leaves a lot to be desired. Some people have gone so far as to say that we are living in a war situation. What more does it take to live in a war situation if people, citizens can be asked to pay taxes by non-state actors, if bandits can have so much latitude and opportunity to operate as to be imposing taxes on citizens and government is not able to protect them; such that the bandits can decide to punish them for not obeying, coming to murder as many as over 100 people. To kill one person is horrible, to kill a hundred is horror itself and yet we have not heard of anything being done about it. If people can be killed and kidnapped while travelling in a train that is supposedly the safer means of travel between Abuja and Kaduna; if an INEC official that is simply doing his work can be murdered in cold blood and no one is able to find out who did it then we are really living in a war situation and our country needs a new security arrangement. God forbid that we become a banana republic. If our young people can be away from their schools because of the dispute between the lecturers and their government which has lingered over many years, if the national grid can be collapsing as often as it does, leaving people in darkness and vulnerable to criminal activities, many areas of our national life is dead and they are like dry bones that need to be brought to life again. However, all hope is not lost and we cannot afford to lose hope.
We have hope because Jesus who died rose from the dead and came back to life, because the dry bones in the valley were restored to life, we believe that God can restore the lost glory of our country also. Just as Ezekiel did what God asked him to do in order to bring the dry bones to life, those who rule our land, the President and his lieutenants must do what is needed in order that God would restore our land. They must toe the line of honesty of purpose, fear of God and zeal for the common good. So long as the values that rule in decision making and actions are political considerations as well as other considerations that exploit our fault lines as a country; ethnic and religious considerations, so long will we continue to groan under the weight of our present problems.
As long as we continue to operate the fraud that we call a Federation so long shall we continue to wallow in the problems that we face. As they say: Heaven helps only those who help themselves and indeed God will not do for us that which he has empowered us to do by ourselves. The rulers of our country must wake up and take the right steps. If government is overwhelmed as it seems to be, then they should leave politics aside and do a broad-based consultation and sincerely seek out ways of dealing with this menace that has brought darkness to our land. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. I ask that we do a symbolic gesture to demonstrate our faith that light must overcome darkness and that the light of Christ is capable of overshadowing the darkness of insecurity and other social problems that beset our country at the moment.
At the end of the Mass, I will ask you to light your candles, the same ones we lighted at the renewal of our baptismal promises as a symbol of faith, and then we shall pray, asking Christ the light of the world, by the intercession of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace, to banish the darkness of insecurity, poverty and other social ills that have befallen our country. I wish you all the joy of the Lord as we celebrate Easter this year. It is the sort of joy, the only sort of joy that our immediate problems cannot take away from us. I wish you a truly blessed and joyful Easter.
• Homily of Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022.