Fourth Sunday of Lent Year B

Rejoice…God Loves Us

Sometimes, the fourth Sunday of Lent is s called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” This is because the on this Sunday, the antiphon is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:10-11). Even as we observe our Lenten sacrifices, we rejoice in anticipation of the joy that will be ours at Easter. Why should we rejoice? This is because The readings today remind us of the fact that despite our sinfulness, God never abandons his Children. The First reading insists on the fact that despite the unfaithfulness and the persistent pollution of the house of the Lord, God always sent his messengers because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. In his letter to the Ephesians 2:4-11, Paul reminds the Ephesians that in his great mercy, God has sent his Son, not to condemn the world but to save it. Jesus was raised up on the cross of suffering as the final effort of God´s surpassing mercy to save us from that awful eventuality.

Our Gospel today is one of the most quoted citation used on banners, on books, on posters, etc. We rejoice because this single verse reminds us that the heart of the Gospel is God’s love and our belief. But there’s more to today’s Gospel than that. To understand the Gospel of today it is good to situate it within the global context of John 3. Nicodemus, the Pharisee approached Jesus at night. He acknowledged him Jesus as someone who had come from God and he really wanted to be his follower.

In his dialogue with Nicodemus, there are three basic images we can meditate on: the necessity of being born again in order to live a new life in the Spirit; the sacrifice of Jesus which brings salvation to believers; and God’s immense love for the world, which he expresses by giving us his Son and to which the only appropriate response is for us to now love others as Jesus does, becoming ourselves channels of God’s love for the world. From this last image we may concentrate on the citation: “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.” (John 3:16)

God is love (CCC 214, 218-21), a love made visible by Christ in his sacrifice for us (CCC 606). If we understood God´s love, and how we separate ourselves from it by sin, we would weep as bitterly as the exiles in Babylon (Psalm). 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. Lent is a great time to begin some serious spiritual reading, well-rooted in sound Catholic tradition, that will help us grow in the knowledge of God and of his saving love.

Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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