Daily Reflection
April 2nd, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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The Forth Sunday of Lent
2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Psalms 137:1-6
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

We, citizens of the United States, when reading accounts of our nation's participation in the Second World War, marvel at the sacrifices made for preserving freedom for the countries of Europe.  We spent millions of dollars, had thousands of our young men and women killed, and then after the war, gave millions of dollars to restore the economies of western Europe.  Now after fifty-five years we also marvel that those same countries do not seem as grateful to us as we might think proper and in some cases we are not only not thanked, but criticized and violently rejected. 

It is the mid-point of Lent this Sunday and we hear of the great things God has done in the past.  Israel has been reconstituted and allowed to have its nation and temple restored.  King Cyrus is a great benefactor and the nation of Israel is thankful.

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of how much God has loved the world as to send God's only Son into that world.  We marvel at these words.  We are also comforted by the second reading which reminds us that our being saved and graced is not by dint of our own works, but by the goodness of the loving God.  We marvel at how blest we are and we are constantly aware of how grateful we are, or are we?

The people of Europe are fifty years removed from being saved by the liberating troops.  As they marched into the towns and villages, those many years ago, they were met with flowers and hugs and cheers.  Now, fifty years later, if we were to walk into those same towns, we would get a different reaction.  Time distances them from such historic events and dulls the sense of being freed.  Those people who would meet our little parade were not saved by our fathers, grandfathers, uncles and old friends.  We would say to them that they ought to read more history and get in touch with how good our countries were to them and then they'd be more grateful to us. 

Lent is the time for those of us who have also been saved and liberated, to read and reflect upon our personal histories of rebelling, of being enslaved, of being unfree, so that we too will experience anew God's saving love.

As the names of Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton might mean very little to most people now, unless they are recalled for their great deeds, so the name and person of Jesus needs to be recalled, revisited, remembered, or we will wonder at what is all the fuss about.  "We're saved, of course, what's new about that?"  It all happened such a long time ago and time can make us a stranger to even the central mystery of our faith. 

As much as we enjoy belonging to a community, parish or group, those associations can also make us less aware personally of who we are.  The people of Israel were freed by Cyrus to go back to their homes and religion.  "Whoever, therefore, among belongs to any part of His people, let him go up, and may his God be with him."  The nation and each person was saved.

Paul mentions a "you" who are saved by God's mercy.  Is that a "we" or "me?"  Jesus is talking to Nicodemus as a person and to all humanity as well.  God so loved the "world" that God sent the only Son into the "world." 

Our lenten prayer flowing through and from this Sunday's liturgy invites each of us to "get in touch."  It is not easy to stay grateful at all times, for being born, being loved in our families, being given so many things in life.  It is not easy to be grateful for personally being saved by the Christ of the cross.  We can feel guilty for this like some kind of spiritual dunce; that is not Christian or religious.  The cross is not meant to defeat our spirits, but comfort us as do the words of Paul in today's second reading, "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...."  It is "us" and "me" who were saved a long time ago in the eternal war to liberate "us" and "me" from death.  It was a long time ago if I keep it a distant event.  The closer I get to that event these days of Lent, the more I experience the "me" and the "us" and the "you" of Christ's saving-love. 

As people return to Normandy to remember and renew their gratitude, so we return to the Word and Sacrament to keep God's love alive and lived gratefully. 

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