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Fr. Emmanuel Akalue - Our Lady of Grace, Palm Bay, FL

Homily - Tuesday 5th Week of Lent A 2020

On this Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent, we share the message, “Seeking Forgiveness and Holistic Healing from God.”  Beloved, our readings today show a connection between sin and disasters, especially in the light of the Corona Virus enigma which has brought everything to a standstill. In our First Reading (Num 21:4-9), faced with hardship in the desert, Israel became impatient, displayed total ingratitude, and complained vehemently against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”  Wow!  How insulting to God after all He did to get them out of Egypt – the series of plagues, including the slaying of their firstborns!  Now, they are telling God we didn’t ask for your help? Please, it’s never OK to be mad at God; “Humble yourselves before the Lord” (James 4:10).

“In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died.”  Could corona virus be an act of divine retribution for the wrong direction of the world – drifting away from faith values?  That cannot be ruled out! (cf. Luke 13:1-5).  In what ways have we displayed impatience and ingratitude to God as individuals and as a people?  Our society, presuming false invincibility, continues to manifest total disregard for the Word of God under the guise of Church and State Separation. We trust in ourselves, like at the “Tower of Babel” (cf Gen 11:1-9). We go with the political, cultural and ideological flow: promoting abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, exploitation of the poor, racism, tribalism, etc.  Nations of the world approving more pro-abortions laws, ripping off babies in the womb up to the ninth month of pregnancy. And Christian embrace these compromises as OK? (cf. Luke 18:8).

When Israel repented and pleaded with God for mercy, through Moses, acknowledging their sins, God forgave, intervened, and provided the spiritual vaccine against the poison of the serpents; telling Moses, “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.”  Moses did as the Lord commanded and everything became normal.  Hence, the medical world uses the image of a serpent on a pole as medical logo.  Beloved, like Israel, we too can repent and change direction. Scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34) God is merciful and always forgives.  So while we beg God to show our scientists and doctors the vaccine and therapeutic regimen, we also need the spiritual antidote to corona virus and other issues. Scientific cure is not enough.  Remember, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

Here, the Gospel Passage (John 8:21-30) becomes significant: Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come” (cf. Matt 23:37-39; Luke 13:34-35).  Regarding proper identity, orientation and values, notice the sharp contrast Jesus draws between Himself and the Pharisees: “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world… For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” Beloved, let’s not become too worldly, too cultural, political and ideological.  We need to yield to God’s Word as children of God: Jesus is the SPIRITUAL ANTIDOTE, the SPIRITUAL VACCINE against corona virus and any other sickness.  Hence, alluding to Himself as the fulfillment of the “vaccine” of Moses’ bronze serpent on a pole, He says, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM.” Expressed plainly, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). May He remain the Source of our well being and happiness, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.