May 18 - May 27, weekend Masses
Sunday, June 2
Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 18, 2012
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Andrea had done everything her parents had warned her against and had lied to cover it up. But it’s impossible to keep a secret in a small town, so she stopped talking to them. When they continued “nagging” her she moved out “forever,” telling her parents she “didn’t have a family” anymore. Eight months later, broke and lonely, she chanced to see her father on the street. Certain he would condemn her, she turned away. “Hello Andrea. How have you been?” Andrea could not contain her tears when she heard the words, “sweetheart, your mom and I would love for you to come home.”
What must it have been like for the Israelites to learn that they were free to go home from their exile? No questions asked. All debts forgiven. A new beginning. If we can imagine their joy and gratitude perhaps we can understand more deeply the tremendous gift we have been given in baptism – God’s mercy gives us the courage to leave our self-imposed exiles and come home! Put another way, “God pardons like a mother who kisses the offense into everlasting forgetfulness.”
Today is Laetare Sunday where rejoicing is the theme as we make it half way through Lent. Today’s readings so beautifully weave together the tapestry of God’s absolute and unconditional love for us, even in the midst of our sinfulness! We heard in that second reading “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Such passages are not just words on a page. They inspire us to absorb their meaning. Jesus is not simply a lawgiver or revealer of eternal truths. He is God’s love in human form! The mystery of God’s saving and forgiving love is manifested in Jesus and especially in his death and resurrection. In him God has entered our life in order to share with us something of his own. God has no desire to condemn the world. People condemn themselves by refusing to accept God’s gift.
From the beginning God called us to live in love and harmony with one another and with him. Sin, selfishness, egoism, violence, anger, hatred, holding onto grudges and all the rest have undermined the diving plan. In Christ, the creator God has turned to creation and offered it the opportunity of a new beginning.
By grace God dwells within us. This grace, which brings new life, while transcending our natural life, is meant to heal it so that in this world and in relation with others we might be the kind of people that God intended us to be. Lent is the time to remember who and whose we are. It is the time to remember what God has done for us and what God calls us to do for others! We are not only to experience divine love, but actually live it in the gifts God gives us. In other words, Lent is not a time simply to sympathize with the cross of Jesus but to embrace it, i.e., to begin once more to follow Jesus with our life. It’s not the gazing but the faithful following that brings healing and new life. We can sing about Jesus, meditate on Jesus, lament the sufferings of Jesus, celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, build wonderful churches to honor Jesus. But are we ready to follow Jesus, to open our lives to His teaching, His truth, His forgiveness as it comes to us through His Church? Are we willing to take the step of repentance, to change how we live?
We have been given a cure for the deep illness and rebellion of soul that we call sin. Left to itself, sin is toxic. It will kill us spiritually. But we have a cure in the cross of Jesus Christ. Will we put that cross on a wall or build a beautiful shrine around it or wear it as jewelry? If we do only that, it won’t do us any good, unless we embrace Jesus and follow his teaching in our life. Reflect on the crucifix. Let it show you the horror of sin. But let it also show the gift of God’s love and the curing forgiveness that can be ours if we follow Jesus. Whatever the burdens in your soul, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” That verse is more than a phrase for a bumper sticker or a sign at a ball game. It expresses the wonderful truth of what redemption is all about for this troubled world and for each of us whom God loves and seeks to heal.
Jesus is indeed the Light of the World. Yet darkness would have us believe that the light will hurt us as it purifies us. That is a bold-faced lie. The light heals and brings peace. Darkness keeps us in our sins which bring disorder, desolation and pain! Where then shall we walk?