4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare) – Cycle B – 2018
FIRST READING 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!”
SECOND READING Ephesians 2:4-10
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 John 3:14-21
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.
My sisters and Brother in Christ,
Rejoice in the Lord! This Fourth Sunday of Lent is always about rejoicing. We rejoice because we have made it halfway through Lent! We rejoice because the Lord continues to call us His people and to draw us to Himself. We rejoice because we know that Jesus came in the flesh for us, died for us and is raised from the dead for us.
The readings today make us very aware that we are still sinful humans, called to grow in faithfulness and love. The first reading is from the Second Book of Chronicles and gives us the sad history that God’s people were unfaithful and finally taken from their own land into exile in Babylonia. The story does not end there, however. Instead this story gives us cause for rejoicing because God brings some of His people back to Judah, to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple.
This account from the Second Book of Chronicles is a pattern that is repeated over and over in the life of our Jewish ancestors and also in the life of our Church. We humans find it difficult to remain faithful. When we are unfaithful, God allows us to suffer the consequences and then, quite often, at least a remnant will return to the Lord. Then there is rejoicing!
The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians and speaks again about our human failings and God’s mercy. “God, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ. It is the gift of God.”
Finally today’s Gospel from Saint John tells us “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him…. Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
Our hearts are hardened and our ears are closed and so often we do not listen to these words of the Lord. Even when we do listen to them, often we do not believe them. Today, on the Sunday of Lent when we should rejoice, let us open our hearts and listen to God. He only wants to tell us that He loves us and invites us to live a life of commitment to Him.
Your brother in the Lord,