4th Sunday of Lent (Fr. Vinner)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
Today is Laetare Sunday. It is unique because, the church exalts us to rejoice in the hope of our salvation. 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.
Our first reading of this Sunday presents to us what seem to be the two sides of a coin. That is, the wrath and the mercy of God. These are revealed in both, the exile and liberation of his people. Three complaints were made against Israel and their leaders. These include: “That they were unfaithful; they defiled the temple; and, they laughed at the prophets.” This led to their deportation and exile. However, in his mercy, God decided to restore them at his own time. Hence, this reading is essentially a message of hope anchored on the grace of a loving, merciful and sovereign God. This is a demonstration of how God chose to save humanity through his only son Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, for some obvious reasons, only few of those granted freedom by king Cyrus took advantage of the opportunity to return home. The rest continued living in the land of exile. When God is ready to save us, we must respond positively to his offer of salvation both from physical and spiritual captivity. It is only through this that our joy will be complete.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us of our former state and how God did redeem us: “…When we were dead through sin, He brought us to life with Christ.” This is simply a manifestation of God’s love and mercy. Most importantly, it highlights the grace of God in action. Today, we rejoice because God has shown us mercy through his grace. However, Paul call our attention to a very important point and question “…Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom 6, 1). Of course, the answer is, no! The reason is that, we must not take anything for granted. We have a part to play. God’s grace has been poured out to save us. However, we must reach out to fetch it.
God has saved us through grace, but he expects us to nourish the new life by living a good life. So, the purpose of saving us through his grace is clear: “To live good life, as He meant us to live it from the beginning.” Yes, this is what grace did for us. It restored us to the life of innocence. So, we must appreciate what God has done for us through Christ.
The gospel of this Sunday contains a very popular verse: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that anyone who believes in him might be saved.” This is the core of today’s good news and should be a source of great joy for all of us. God’s offer was free and communicates the fullness of grace. The condition of this offer is clear and simple: “…So that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may be saved.” This reminds us that grace is not opposed to faith. Rather, they work together. Also, it reminds us that God has made grace and salvation available this season. On our part, we must be ready to accept this offer through faith in Christ.
Let us rejoice today because grace has been made available, and our salvation is close at hand (Jas 5, 8). What we simply need to do is, believe and live the good life which God created us to live from the beginning. Good life means living as faithful children of God. It means living for God day after day, and time after time. This is the only way our joy can be complete.
Life messages: 1) We need to love the cross, the symbol of God’s forgiving and merciful love: As a forceful reminder not only of God’s love and mercy, but also of the price of our salvation, the crucifix invites us to more than generosity and compassion. It inspires us to remove the suffering of other people’s misery. It encourages us not only to feel deep sorrow for another’s suffering but also to try our best to remove that suffering. Hence, let us love the cross, wear its image and carry our own daily cross with joy, while helping other to carry their heavier crosses. 2) We need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving and merciful. Let us try to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities in sharing our love with others during Lent. 3) Our rebirth by water and the Spirit must be an ongoing process. That is, we must lead a life of repentance and conversion bringing us to renewal of life, with the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, through prayer, Bible reading, frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist and doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
May God Bless us.
FR. S.Vinner HGN