March 15, 2015 – Fourth Sunday of Lent
2 Chr 36: 14-16, 19-23; Ps 137: 1-6; Eph 2: 4-10; Jn 3: 14-21
For some reason during Lent and our preparations for Easter the readings presented to us in Holy Scripture capture not only the essence of this holy season, but provide us with the many ways we should be using this time to appreciate and deepen our faith. In particular today’s Gospel from St. John completely captures on what we should be focusing and how we should view the impending joy of Easter.
John 3:16 is one of the most recognized, repeated, quoted, and expounded messages in our entire Christian society: “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.” Some theologians maintain that in this one verse the entire Gospel message is compacted and stated, and other theological historians state that this is the most frequently-quoted proclamation from Scripture in the world. We could reflect entirely on that verse, but there is even more richness and more meaning to all of our readings on this Fourth Sunday of Lent.
The 1st and 2nd Books of Chronicles represent the history of human kind at that time. The first word in 1 Chronicles is “Adam” and the last words in 2 Chronicles are included in today’s first reading. The entire message from the two books of Chronicles can be summed up with the phrases “God loves us” and “God has gifted us.” This is the message on which we must base our thoughts, our prayers, and our responses to all of today’s readings. This particular reading from Chronicles speaks of the Babylonian exile, a 70-year period when many of the Israelites were transported to Babylon where they remained prisoners. When they were released from captivity, many opted to remain in Babylon. The message is that the end is also a “fresh start.” During this Lent every day is a “fresh start” for each of us. It should be our goal to make use of it, keeping in mind that we are gifted by God, and through stewardship we are called to use those gifts to thank God and benefit others.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, our second reading, Paul mentions also that God’s saving grace is a gift to us. This is a gift always available to us, but one to which we are definitely called during Lent. Reconciliation is important to our faith and vital to each of us. We need to seek reconciliation in preparation for Easter. We need to understand and appreciate that God’s forgiving grace is available to each of us, but we must seek it. The beauty, of course, is that it is ours even if we do not seek it.
As indicated in John 3:16 God loved the world — the entire world and all who occupy it. And who will receive the incredible gift of salvation? “Whoever believes in him.” Believing in Jesus is the one requirement for us to receive this incredible gift. We are not talking about just being aware of this gift, of just being aware of God’s saving grace. What is asked of us is a complete and total trust in God, the kind of trust which allows us to be good stewards, to take risks in that regard, because we know God is with us and God loves us. At this point in our Lenten journeys we need to seek total commitment to living lives of faith and stewardship.