4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle B – 2009 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.
We come to the midpoint of Lent and have this Sunday celebration with a theme of joy and of trust in the Lord. During the whole of Lent, our hearts are set on the joy of Easter, but our feet must be firmly planted in the repentance of Lent. This Sunday, the midpoint, invites us to look at the joy just a bit more so that we can be encouraged to embrace for the rest of Lent the repentance which is so necessary in our lives.
Lent is so much about our struggle with sin! We must give our attention to the reality of sin in our lives and not ignore it. It is not as though we are terrible people—instead, most of us are fairly good people. But sin is still in our lives. We try to do the best we can, but often our struggle with sin is on the sidelines of our lives rather than a strong focus. Probably that is the way that it should be most of the time. But Lent calls us to put in the center for a short season of our life each year, to identity the sins that are our own and to struggle with them.
This is part of the message of the Gospel of Saint John today: Look at that which has brought sickness and be healed by the looking. But the message is twofold. In the midst of that which has brought about the sickness of sin in our lives we will also find Jesus Himself, present there to bring us healing.
These are deeply important messages for us. We cannot struggle with our sins without knowing them. And we should know that Jesus is always present to help us in the midst of our sin and in the midst of our struggle with sin: 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. This is so clearly stated in the Letter to the Ephesians. Yet we don’t always believe this reality. We sometimes think that God has abandoned us. We sometimes think that if we sin again, somehow we are no good. Instead, God invites us over and over to turn to Him. God knows that we are human and that in our struggles with sin, we will continue to fail and to fall. God is still with us and God still invites us to live in Him.
So on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we can rejoice be cause we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance. God is with us and we should not be afraid. Let us continue the struggle with sin with ever greater confidence. Let us rejoice in God’s love.