Rejoicing in God’s Love and Gift of Salvation

A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for the 4th Sunday of Lent (Year B).
2Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 – Ephesians 2:4-10 – John 3:14-21.

It is so good to know that we will soon be able to meet together again in our parishes to worship, to participate in Holy Mass, and to celebrate what lies at the very heart of the liturgy throughout Holy Week. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we missed out on all these last year. It gives me great joy that, this time around, we are looking to the immediate future in hope that this coming Easter will be so different. The Entrance Antiphon for today tells us to Rejoice! I pray for each and every one of you that you will be liberated from anything which has been a hindrance to your joy (Neh 8:10) May the joy of the coming Easter radiate into your life. Amen.

My dear friends in Christ, today is Laetare Sunday. Having journeyed halfway through Lent, the Church calls on us to take a breather in this penitential season and to rejoice, to look forward to the joy of Easter. Everything we have been doing so far this Lent in terms of abstinence, fasting, prayer, almsgiving and penance, has been aimed at helping us to experience all the more richly the contrast of Easter joy when it comes. I don’t know about you, but I am anticipating the joy of Easter with relish. How do you feel when you are being encouraged today to rejoice?

We Christians are called to rejoice because the Lord Jesus has triumphed over sin and death in order to reconcile us to God the Father (1Jn 3:8). The 1st reading reminds us that it was the sins of the people of Israel which were the direct cause of their exile and mourning for their land, their city and their centre of worship. In the 2nd reading, St Paul, rejoicing in the joy of divine salvation by the one-off offering of God the Son (Rom 6:10) for our sake, and the restoration of humanity to relationship with God (1Pet 2:24), tells us that when we were dead through our sins … it is through grace that you have been saved (v.5). God has done this for us out of His great love for us (Gal 2:20). In his love, He saved us and gave us a reason for rejoicing. In the Gospel, Jesus explained how great this love that God has for us is when He told Nicodemus for God so loved the world that He gave his only Son (v.16). God gave us this marvellous gift of His only-begotten Son through Whom the world was made (Jn 1:10).

The Cross is the seal of victory over sin because it was through death [that] He [Jesus] might destroy the one who has the power of death (Heb 2:14) It is important to point out today what the Cross means for us and to emphasize the joy in salvation it brings us. Why? Because in the readings between now and the Easter Vigil, we shall be hearing of the pains that Jesus endured for us (1Pet 3:18) – the scheming of the Jewish authorities against Him, the desertion, betrayal and denial of Jesus by His disciples, the duplicitous crowd whose cheering changed to jeering, the cruelty of the torturers and executioners, and of His agony, death and burial. The Church in her wisdom wants us to take a hard look at Our Lord’s Passion and Death in order to be completely confident that (a) there is life beyond this present life, and (b) that He endured everything in order to obtain our ultimate joy and salvation. For our sake, God took our guilt upon Himself (Rom 8:33f). He paid our debt for sin. By his wounds, we have been healed (1Pet 2:24).

In Jn 3:14 Jesus gave us an OT parallel of what He was going to do for us when He quoted the episode of the fiery serpent of bronze (Num 21:4ff) in which the people of Israel were healed from snakebite and did not die. He said, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (v.14). Those who look in trust and faith at Jesus ‘lifted up’ on the Cross, (having put Himself in place of the lying serpent of Genesis 3) will be granted access through Him to eternal life with God, both now and in the life to come. Jesus endured His Passion and Death to save all those who believe in Him. We look on the Cross with love and gratitude, with trust and rejoicing, because it was the instrument through which Jesus was exalted to heal us from sin, save our souls from damnation, and restore us to relationship with the triune God.

Bearing all the above in mind, fasten your gaze on a crucifix, and say this prayer:  Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your infinite love for me. I thank You for giving Yourself up so that I may live. I will always rejoice because You have saved me by Your Cross, Death and Resurrection. Until Easter is here, I will hold onto this joy of salvation as I journey with You to Calvary. Help me to die to my sins and to rise in newness of life at Easter. Amen.