The 4th Sunday of Lent – 14 March 2012
Lectionary Readings: 2 Chron 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21
Theme: Rejoice and be joyful for God loves us!
The fourth Sunday of Lent is Laetare or Rejoice Sunday – taken from the first words of the ‘Entrance Antiphon’: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all her love her. Be joyful, all who are in mourning…” (Is 66:10). Last Thursday was the midpoint of Lent so the Sunday following it is regarded as a day of celebration and lessening of fasting and mourning. The priests who up to this point have been wearing purple vestments may wear rose colored vestments for the celebration. Flowers that have not been displayed in the sanctuary may be put there. The organ which traditionally was silent up to now may be played. This was a true celebration when we traditionally practiced a severe fast and abstinence. Our present Lent is focused less on giving up and strict daily fasting and more on fasting from sin and praying more and giving alms to the poor and needy.
So what have our readings to say to us about celebration and why? In our Gospel reading we are told by Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (v. 16). Isn’t that reason for great rejoicing? The Son is the light which has come into our dark and chaotic world. That light is still here: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28: 20). It is we, humanity, who keep choosing to be in the darkness.
We read in Ephesians: “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” This all because of God’s agape: unconditional love which is experienced as unconquerable benevolence and undefeatable goodwill.
We get a glimpse of God’s agape in the first reading from 2 Chronicles. Here we are told why the Babylonian Captivity happened to the Israelites: “All the leading priests and the people were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of the LORD which (the LORD) had hallowed in Jerusalem” (v. 14). The Temple and Jerusalem were totally destroyed by the Chaldeans and those Israelites who escaped the sword were taken into captivity. Psalm 137 describes the captives’ longing for Jerusalem. They place a curse on themselves if they do not ‘remember’ Jerusalem: “if I prize not Jerusalem/as the first of my joys” (v. 6). God has not forgotten God’s people and after many years: “(a)ll the days that it (the land on which Jerusalem was built) lay desolate, it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (v. 21), Persia under King Cyrus overcame the Chaldeans. He sent out a proclamation: “The LORD, the God of heaven…has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem …Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up” (v. 23).
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What kept running through my head while I was reading and writing this, is that God never lets go of us. The poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907) “The Hound of Heaven”, first published in 1893, was a poem I learnt in school (182 lines) before I came across Psalm 139. As a Lenten meditation, read both the poem (on Google) and the psalm or either and rejoice and be joyful that this is the LORD God who created us, loves us and searches for us from eternity to eternity.
Bibliography: Hayford, (General Editor). Spirit Filled Life Bible. Nashville (1991); Paulines: The Daily Missal. Spain (2002)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, Durban, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008