Each of us is a beneficiary of God’s mercy and love — rejoice!

By: By Sharon Priester

Fourth Sunday of Lent/March 15

2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23; Psalm 137:1-2,3,4-5,6; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

This Sunday we are a little over halfway through our Lenten journey and looking forward to the celebration of Easter. Like any journey, we sometimes get to a point where we hit a roadblock. Maybe we are running low on fuel or tired and finding it hard to keep trudging along. When that happens, we need to stay focused on God’s great love for each and every one of us. This week’s readings help us to do just that.

This Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. “Laetare” is the Latin word for rejoice. We hear that in the words of the Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice, Jerusalem and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” (Isaiah 66:10-11)

As the priest processes in, he may be wearing rose colored vestments instead of the purple we saw earlier in Lent. Purple is the color of Lenten penance and white is the color of feast days. Rose is obtained by mixing purple and white.

In the passage from 2 Chronicles, we first hear how the people of Judah, along with their princes and priests, “added infidelity to infidelity,” polluted the temple of the Lord, and mocked and abused the prophets. Their enemies, in retaliation, destroyed Jerusalem. Those not killed were taken captive.

Many years later, Cyrus, king of Persia, identified by the Lord as His shepherd and the one who fulfilled His every wish, overthrew the Babylonians, set the Jewish people free, restored them to their homeland and built a temple to the Lord. All this was done in Cyrus’ joyfulness and gratitude to God.

SAVED BY GRACE
At the very beginning of today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking to the Nicodemus, who has come to Him under the cover of darkness. The Pharisee wants to understand the teachings of Jesus better. Jesus reminds him how Moses lifted high the serpent so the Israelites could be saved and journey to the Promised Land. He goes on to say that now the “Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15)

John emphasizes this message again in verses 16 through 18. God gave His only Son to save those who believe. The Light will come into the darkness. Those that do not believe, who prefer the darkness over the Light of Christ, will be condemned.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reiterates all the great gifts we have received from God. We have been “brought . . . to life with Christ” and “been saved by His grace.” All of this is a “gift of God; it is not from works.” We are not being rewarded for what we have done or have accomplished. Rather, each of us is a beneficiary of God’s mercy and love. Let us rejoice and be joyful.

In these final weeks of Lent, keep the words of Paul in mind. We have been “brought to life with Christ, by grace you have been saved.” Christ loved us so much that He was “lifted up” (Ephesians 3:14) and died for us so we could have eternal life. “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.” (Ephesians 2:10)

In gratitude and joyfulness, take some time to reflect on these words of Paul and the depth of God’s love for each of us. Think about how you can share this love with those around you so that they too can “rejoice and be joyful” in what God has done for them.

Later this week, spring arrives. It is a season when we see trees budding and flowers blooming. The Lenten season is a springtime for our souls. May our souls blossom into new life in Christ as we listen to God’s Word, pray, fast, and give alms, preparing for the celebration of Easter.

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SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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