2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the Lord against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. All this was to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.” In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”
Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ—by grace you have been saved—raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
On this fourth Sunday of Lent we are invited to meditate on our own lack of response to God’s invitation to us. Each one of us can find ways in which we have lived without faith and without response to this God who loves us.
The incredible thing, of course, is that God continues to offer us His love no matter how many times we reject Him. His forgiveness is unconditional and is offered over and over and over. His love for us knows no limits. That is what makes God so foolish. He loves us so much that He sends His own Son who even dies for us—and still we are not willing to give every aspect of our life to this God. We doubt that anyone could love that much. And surely God is a foolish figure!
We respond very clearly when the tough words of Scripture are read to us. We get upset at times when we hear of a God who punishes, who gets upset with our lack of response, who allows murder and killing and above all the death of little children. We find all kinds of arguments against this God that we find in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures.
Yet we don’t seem to like the image of God given to us in the New Testament either. We find it difficult to believe that this man, Jesus, is truly God.
Lent is about our journey to accept God’s love for us, God’s divine presence in our lives. It is about accepting that Jesus is truly man and truly God. It is a journey to accept our own sinfulness and to be able to give that sinfulness back to God in asking for forgiveness.
We don’t like to think of God as someone who might punish us. Indeed, that seems to be an inadequate image of God. Rather, we ourselves cut ourselves off from God and that is a whole different image. Lent is a time to look again at our relationship with our God who loves us, at our relationship with the God-man Jesus who gave His live for us and to ask for the Holy Spirit to convert us entirely. Let us give praise to Father, Son and Spirit, now and forever. Let us live in the truth and in the light.