From the Pastor's Desk
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Lætare (Rejoice) Sunday, from the first words of today’s liturgy. As on Gaudete Sunday in Advent, rose-colored vestments may replace violet and flowers may grace the altar, symbolizing the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection of Our Lord. The central theme of today’s readings is that our salvation is the free gift of a merciful God, given to us sinners through Jesus, His Son. The readings stress God’s mercy and compassion and remind us of the great love, kindness and grace extended to us in Christ.
In the first reading, taken from the Second Book of Chronicles, we learn the compassion and patience of God. God allowed Cyrus the Great, a pagan conqueror, to become the instrument of His mercy and salvation to His chosen people who were in exile in Babylon.
In the second reading, Paul tells us that God is so rich in mercy that He has granted us eternal salvation and eternal life as a free gift through Christ Jesus.
Today’s Gospel has a parallel theme, but on a much higher level. Jesus, the Son of God, became the agent of God’s salvation, not just for one sinful nation but for the sinfulness of the whole world. Through John 3:16, the Gospel teaches us that God expressed His love, mercy and compassion for us by giving His only Son for our salvation. Nicodemus, the wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, meets Jesus by night and begins a long religious discussion. Jesus explains to him that he must believe Jesus’ words because he is the Son of God. He further explains to Nicodemus God’s plan of salvation by referring to the story of Moses and the bronze serpent (Nm 21:1-9). Just as God saved the victims of serpent bite through the bonze serpent, He is going to save mankind from its sins by permitting the crucifixion and death of His Son Jesus because the love of God for mankind is that great.
- We need to love the cross, the symbol of God’s forgiving and merciful love: As a forceful reminder not only of God’s love and mercy, but also of the price of our salvation, the crucifix invites us to more than generosity and compassion. It inspires us to remove the suffering of other people’s misery. It encourages us not only to feel deep sorrow for another’s suffering but also to try our best to remove that suffering. Hence, let us love the cross, wear its image and carry our own daily cross with joy, while helping other to carry their heavier crosses.
- We need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving and merciful. Let us try to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities in sharing our love with others during Lent.
- Our rebirth by water and the Spirit must be an ongoing process. That is, we must lead a life of repentance and conversion bringing us to renewal of life, with the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, through prayer, Bible reading, frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist and doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy