4th Sunday of Lent

First reading: 2 Chr. 36:14–16,19–23

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Second reading: Eph. 2:4–10

Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ—by grace you have been saved—raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. 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.

Gospel: Jn. 3:14–21

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

In other words

by Fr. Pablo Garay Jr., SVD (St. Therese Parish, Dagupan City)

A story has it about a planet that had inhabitants who were extremely intelligent. Despite their intelligence, they were faced with a problem that required an immediate solution by their scientists. Their planet was near extinction! They had to look to other planets for survival. Their scientists proposed that the planet Earth was their only solution. But the planet Earth was already populated by “earthlings” and the only solution was for them to attack Earth and annihilate the “earthlings.” Their king thought of first consulting the wisest old man in the kingdom. The king and his generals went to the wise old man for advice. The wisest old man had this to say: “That you cannot do! For the Creator, God himself, chose to be one among them, lived with them, and even died for them. Yes, he loved them that much that he died for them!”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son!” It is no fiction, for indeed God, the One who has no beginning and no end, the Supreme Being, humbled himself to become man. He is the God who is referred to as the Word made flesh in John 1:14. He is the God who came to us as a baby born of a Virgin, Mary by name. We celebrated his birth last Christmas! This Lenten Season, we celebrate his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

We celebrate because his Passion, Death, and Resurrection were the very means that won for us victory over death itself. This is what we celebrate this Laetare Sunday. Laetare means rejoice! We rejoice that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son—the very Son who says: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends!” Here is the cost of God’s love for us: he laid down his life on the cross for us. As the people of Moses’ time looked up to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses and were saved, so we who look up to the Cross of Jesus and believe in him will have eternal life!

This Lenten season, and especially this Laetare Sunday, we are invited to look up to the crucifix, and contemplating on the Crucified, we are reminded of the infinity of God’s love for us which shames us because of our ingratitude and sins. The same bruised arms and nailed hands embrace us as the loving father of the prodigal son embraced his returning son.

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