Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year B 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21
This is Laetare Sunday — the midpoint of our Lenten journey. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” The name comes from the traditional first words of the Introit for this Sunday, “Rejoice, Jerusalem.” We rejoice because we’re halfway through Lent and closer to celebrating the fullness of God’s love and our salvation.
It is a good time to look at our Lenten journey and determine if we are headed in the right direction. To do that, we need to know where we want to go, or where we should be going.
In the book “Alice in Wonderland,” the Cheshire cat asked that question of Alice and tells her it didn’t make any difference which path she took because she didn’t know where she wanted to go. If our purpose is to draw closer to God, then the direction we take is extremely important and made clear in today’s Scripture readings.
In the Gospel, we hear what is one of the most often-quoted Gospel verses. I remember seeing it at sporting events and other large gatherings; there always seemed to be someone in the crowd holding a sign that read, “John 3:16.”
That one verse tells us a lot; however, it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know and understand. We need to further understand that God sent his Son not to condemn us, but to save us (verse 17). Jesus came for our salvation. If we realize the whole purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is to offer us salvation instead of judgement, our Lenten journey takes a different focus, and our world takes on a different appearance.
The salvation offered to us by God is a free gift, given to us through grace. It cannot be earned, and we do not deserve it. Paul reminds us of this in the second reading (Eph 3:8): “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God…”
We can accept or reject this free gift.. However, if we truly accept this gift of salvation, there are consequences. Accepting the gift of salvation calls us into a relationship with God and to do the works Jesus did.
In the story of the man born blind (John 9:1-41, Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A), Jesus tells us, “We must do the works of one who sent me while it is still day.” Our works, which are a result of our faith, reflect the presence of Jesus in our lives. As long as we reflect the presence of Jesus, it is day because Jesus is the light that creates the day.
He is also the truth lived through our acceptance of salvation. Jesus tells us this in verse 21: “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light so that his (and her) works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
Salvation calls us to bring light to the world. That light brings love, not hate, and joy, not sadness. It calls us to love unconditionally because God loves us unconditionally. It also calls us to accept others unconditionally because God accepts us unconditionally.
These are not easy tasks, but the closer we get to God, the easier they become. The closer we get to God, the more the light will shine through us and guide us; the more the truth will be seen in us. Our Lenten journey should help draw us closer to God.
Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.