March 11, 2018
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year B Readings - Lectionary: 32

2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalms 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6.
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

Praying Lent

Lent Prayer for Today

The Fourth Week of Lent - 31 min. - Text Transcript

Symbols in our Home

Family Prayer in Lent

Today’s readings move us forward in our Lenten journey through instruction about repentance and mercy.  The first reading in the Chronicles recounts a period of infidelity and judgment upon God’s people.  The people had not merely erred, but they had added “infidelity upon infidelity.”  “Early and often” did they receive warnings from the prophets.  But like a child who covers his ears when being instructed, they persisted in their wrongful choices.  A drastic remedy was required. 

Conquest and captivity brought the humiliation of defeat and the remorse that comes from recognizing the goodness they had lost.  Today’s Psalm reminds us of this remorse — longing for home and its beauty -- even its music -- which was beyond their reach.  In this story, mercy came through the motivation of an outsider-king, who grants a reprieve from this captivity and allows these people to return to their land and rebuild their temple.  Query – who do you think motivated that king?  Sometimes mercy comes from unlikely sources.

Stories with second chances encourage us, as we know that we often need them.  Many of us know firsthand about going our own way when it is not the right way. Perhaps we did not deliberately start out with the wrong path in mind, but we made some bad choices.  And when we added more bad choices, we may have found ourselves further from home than we had anticipated.  We found it hard to return to the good path, perhaps even doubting whether we belonged there at all.  But no matter how far we might stray, beauty and truth call out to us like a beacon in the storm.  Their deep imprints upon our soul allow us to recognize that our own ways are not working; we need God and we cannot sustain ourselves without Him.  These deep imprints keep reminding us that there is hope – and that we can go home after all.

Today’s gospel reading contains a famous passage from John’s gospel — John 3:16 — which many know by heart.  It is part of a larger narrative in which Jesus tells Nicodemus about his saving mission. I once read this passage as validation of the prominent role of faith in our salvation, but I now see that works matter, too.  Indeed, this gospel warns those who think they can believe but persist in doing wrong.

Our faith should not stay in our head.  It should be reflected in our hearts, arms, legs, fingers, and toes as we do works that proceed from love of God and love of neighbor, which St. Augustine described as medicine that we need from the Church.  The Church is indeed a hospital for sinners, and we must come with a desire to become well, not merely to reflect on our symptoms.

Lord, we need your mercy.  Grant that we might heed your warnings when we leave the path, and return promptly.  Let us remember always the goodness and beauty that we can only find in you, and not in the cheap substitutes that we sometimes choose.  Open our hearts and minds to be receptive to your instruction, so that we can live worthily as your people. Kindle true faith that draws us to your Church, where we can find the medicine we need to be well and the home where we truly belong.  Thanks be to God.

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