First Reading: 2 Chronicles: 36:14-16, 19-23
During Lent, our Old Testament readings have been recounting the history of Israel to us. We heard about God’s covenant with Noah on the First Sunday of Lent, then about Abraham and the binding of Isaac on the Second Sunday, and last week was Moses and the Ten Commandments. This week, we fast forward to the time of Israel’s exile. This took place after the great King David reigned in Israel. David had united the kingdom and made a covenant with God. His son, Solomon, had built a magnificent Temple to God in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t long after Solomon that things went awry for Israel. The people rebelled and were divided. In today’s first reading we hear that “the people added infidelity to infidelity.” God’s people were disobeying His commandments and defiling His own Temple.
Amid their rebellion, God sent many prophets to Israel to call them to repentance. But they did not listen! Rather, they mocked God’s messengers, revealing the hardness of their hearts. As a result, they suffered the consequences for their sins. The Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was sacked, and the people were taken into exile in Babylon. Only after about seventy years would they be able to return to their homeland and rebuild. Babylon was eventually overtaken by Persia and the new king, Cyrus, became the instrument God used to bring salvation to His people. Upon Cyrus’ decree, the Israelites returned home and rebuilt. This salvation brought to them by God, despite their rebellion, was a foreshadowing of the salvation to come in Christ.
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10
Today is Laetare (“Rejoice!”) Sunday! It is on this Fourth Sunday of Lent that we change liturgical colours to rose in honour of the fact that Easter is drawing near. It is a time to rejoice in the coming celebration of the events of our salvation. Today’s second reading succinctly summarizes the beautiful truth of the Gospel in which we rejoice. While we were “dead in our transgressions [i.e., sins]” and could do nothing to save ourselves, God acted and sent Jesus to die on the cross, rise from the dead, and, therefore, offer us salvation. This salvation is a gift given to us by God. We do not by any means deserve it. Still, we are called to accept it in faith. God offers us this free gift, but He never forces it upon us. We must choose to embrace the gift of salvation and live accordingly. We have been created to live in communion with God. God’s grace makes it possible for us to be forgiven and reunited with Him, but we also must work to maintain that relationship.
Gospel Reading: John 3:14-21
John 3:16 (“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”) is probably the most well-known verse of the Bible in our society today. We see it referenced on billboards, bumper stickers, and at sporting events. Chances are you have heard this verse many times before. But like anything that is very common, it can easily lose its depth of meaning in our lives. Why is this verse so famous? Because it encapsulates everything that is at the core of the Christian message.
First, God loves us! He created us out of love, and He desires to be in a personal relationship with us. Second, we have broken our relationship with God through sin. By disobeying and not trusting God, we stand condemned, remaining in the darkness that sin brings. Third, God did not want to leave us in that dark, distant place we got ourselves into. Rather, He has provided us with a solution by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man. Why did Jesus come? He came to offer us salvation. He brought light into the darkness of sin and, therefore, overcame it. Without Jesus, we stand condemned and deserve eternal separation from God. But in Jesus we can have eternal life. Therefore, let us trust in Him and pursue the light He offers, turning from the darkness of sin, so that we “might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Taking it Home:
In what parts of your life is the darkness of sin still lingering around? Jesus wants to fill your whole life with His light, pushing out sin. Will you let Him? Turn to Him in faith.