Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Lent Year B: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Readings: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-6; Eph 2:4-10 and John 3:14-21
Joy in the Saving Love and Mercy of God!God is light, God is love. God is joy! God judges, yet he forgives. He is merciful. He liberates us from all kinds of exiles and finally brings us joy! Four weeks ago, how time flies, on Ash Wednesday, we began our Lenten journey, marked with prayers, acts of charity, fasting, mourning, preaching and listening very closely to the Word of God, as well as disposing ourselves for other forms of spiritual renewals.
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally called Laetare Sunday, the Bible lessons are coated with liberating messages of joy. Recall, that entrance antiphon, that prophecy of Isaiah 66:10-11 which we began this Mass with. We are invited to: “Rejoice (rinna) with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, All you who love her Exult, rejoice with her, all you who were mourning over her…suck fully of the milk of her comfort.”
This is the same message of joy, from Israel’s prophets, that Pope Francis began his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, with. In particular, and similar to our entrance antiphon is the joyful message of Zephaniah, that says,
“Rejoice the Lord has cancelled your judgment and misfortunes. The Lord your God is with you. He is a Mighty Savior. He rejoices over you with gladness. He will rejoice over you with a happy Song. He will renew you with His Love and Restores your Fortunes” (Zeph 3:14-20).
We rejoice today because of whom the Lord is: the Light of the world, because of how he forgives, because of how he loves, heals, intervenes in our lives, in times war, uncertainties, hunger, poverty, deprivation and exiles and even during the loss of our loved ones!
This is well chronicled in the First Reading of today, 2 Chronicles chapter 36. Yes, Israel had sinned, their kings, priests and the people: “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.” This let them into the darkness and judgment of exiles in Assyria, Babylon and Persia. But, the God of our fathers, who is compassionate and merciful, would never abandon his people. God has his dramatic and divine ways of restoring Israel to himself; evident in the Exodus/Wilderness’ events, in Ezra- Nehemiah, and in other Midrashic Books of Tobith, Ruth, Judith, and Esther.
St. Paul confirms this in the Second Reading when he says, “Brothers and Sisters, God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had love us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life in Christ- by grace you have been saved…”
God's saving acts culminate in the Gospel reading of today which says, “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 in to the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:14-21).
It is in this saving love of God that we celebrate and rejoice for today, on a Laetare Sunday! As we look forward to the remaining week of Lent, which ushers us into the Passion Week, let us allow ourselves to be forgiven just as we strive to forgive those who may have hurt or offended us. Let us also, as Pope Francis would recommend, reach out evangelically, prophetically, with joy to the world; our brothers, and sisters, the poor, the sick, the needy in prisons, the rich, and those in war, boko-haram, ISIS and terrorist-torn areas, as well as to victims of all forms of slavery.