The concept of a grave brings to mind the place of the dead, the place of no return, the place where there is no life. Death is inevitable. Everyday about one hundred and forty five thousand people die, every hour about six thousand, and every minute about one hundred. God in the first reading offered to open up the graves and raise his people from their graves and bring them back to life. The background to the first reading was as a result of the Israelites going into exile when the king of Babylon conquered Jerusalem. Life in exile was very discouraging for the Israelites. There was no hope of returning home and worse still, more and more Israelites went on forgetting their religion and living the pagan way of life. In this situation, Israel could be considered as good as dead. Yahweh showed to Ezekiel in a vision a valley full of human bones: thigh bones, arm bones, ribs, skulls, all scattered all over. And Yahweh put this question to Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?” (Ezek.37:3). The obvious answer would have been: “No, never.” Yet Ezekiel replied: “O Lord God, you know” (Ezek.37:3). All of a sudden something astonishing happened. There was a clattering of bones against bones, as each one found its match. The bones joined to each other by sinews, flesh started growing around them then skin covered the flesh, and finally Yahweh breathed on these bodies and they started living again! From verse 11 before the beginning of the first reading, there is no question of resurrection of the body here: the dry bones are the exiled Israelites who say “our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost, we are clean cut off.” With God saying: “I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves” (Ezek.37:12), God tells these despairing Israelites that all is not lost. He will give them a real life, not that of slavery, once more. With these dead bones coming together, the lesson to the prophet Ezekiel became clear. What no human power could do, Yahweh could carry out. The situation of the people of Israel in exile resembled the condition of those dry bones scattered all over. Yet, Yahweh would work out the wonder. The Israelites would go back home and become a free nation again. This indeed was a veritable resurrection! Israel indeed rose from death to life. In today’s Gospel where Jesus brought Lazarus who was already dead and decomposing after being buried for four days, Jesus wanted Martha and everyone to know that it is through him that Lazarus would rise again. Why did Jesus had to wait after four days that Lazarus died before showing up? Jesus delayed his coming because he wanted the miracle enable people to see God’s glory and also in this miracle Jesus, would be glorified. When some trials or afflictions come upon us, especially if they are as a result of our fidelity to God, they would make all the difference in the world if we see that the cross we have to bear is our glory and the way to greater glory still. Jesus waited until the case became hopeless. Why? Sometimes God stresses us to a breaking point to determine the strength of our fidelity and obedience to him. If you find yourself in the shoes of Mary and Martha, would you not be frustrated? After all, their house was like a second home to Jesus where Jesus is offered the best hospitality and friendship but when he was most needed he disappointed them. Many of us do feel the same sometimes about God. Think about those times you blame God for not responding quickly despite your faithfulness to him, particularly with the present situation in which we find ourselves in our world being ravaged by Coronavirus pandemic. These are precious times to listen to him attentively. Martha on meeting Jesus would have spoken like this: “so now you are coming after burying my brother, why did you not come when we needed you most? Rather, she said: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22). With these words, she still trusted Jesus in her pains. Jesus said: “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Not all Jews at this time of Jesus believed in the doctrine of the resurrection. The Sadducees for example, do not believe in the resurrection but the Pharisees and some of the Jews did believe. Jesus confirmed the certainty and the reality of the resurrection when he said: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus brings about the resurrection. He is the source of supernatural life. Those who believe in Jesus, though they be dead physically, nevertheless they live spiritually. St. Paul in the second reading tells us: “But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:10-11). We all have to die because of Adam’s sin. Although we have to die, we shall live because through Christ’s resurrection we shall be raised to eternal glory. In our readings today beginning with the first reading, the land of Israel of which prophet Ezekiel speaks is for us heaven. The Lord desires to lead us out of our tombs, from a life of no other horizons than material ones, a life without relief, which only causes worries about the problems of this world and is often subject to the chains of hate, dispute or every type of egoism. We must not live in the tomb of selfishness. Our earthly life is to be impregnated by divine life which is the life of charity, the life of resurrection. The necessary condition to have the life of resurrection is to believe in Jesus Christ. Eight times the word “believe” occurs in today’s Gospel. Of these eight times, five times Jesus himself uses the word. We thank Jesus for the gift of the resurrection. We do not know what the world would have been without the hope of the resurrection.The wicked would have triumphed over the good. By raising Lazarus from death after he had almost decayed in the grave, pointed out that Jesus will rise from death after his crucifixion, death and burial on the third day. The resurrection of Lazarus points to our own individual resurrection on the last day. Jesus is the only voice that wakes the dead. He is the only key to eternal life. He reaffirmed this fact by telling us that: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). The miracle of bringing Lazarus back to life is not only an act of compassion, but a sign of Christ’s power over life and death. Jesus has the power to overcome death and to grant life to those who are faithful to him. One last thought. It is through the prayers of Martha and Mary that Jesus raised Lazarus to life. Through our prayers Jesus will give eternal life to many especially those who have died through the Coronavirus pandemic ravaging our world today. Let us, then, pray for our brothers and sisters who are deprived of the life of grace that they may have supernatural life. Let us also pray for those who are down with Coronavirus pandemic that Jesus will restore them to lasting health of mind and body and that Jesus will banish from our world the presence of Coronavirus pandemic completely. As we prepare to enter into the Holy Week from next Sunday God willing, may God raise us from our life of darkness into His light, bring us out of our life in the grave of sin into His eternal life of the resurrection through Christ our Lord. Amen. Wishing you a happy Sunday and a fruitful week ahead. Rev. Fr. Christian Ehimen Usifoh.