4th Sunday of Lent, Year B
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalm 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6 (6ab)
March 11, 2018
Our first reading today comes from the Second Book of Chronicles. We don’t hear a lot from the first or second book of Chronicles in our regular lectionary cycle. So, they may not seem familiar.
That being said, what we hear today should be familiar. It talks about how the princes, priests, and people of Judah add to their infidelities and abominations. I say “add” because, unfortunately, these behaviors are nothing new. The Jews are a chosen people but they often fall short of their election.
Despite their failings, God never stops loving his people. Chronicles tells us that “early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people.” God kept sending prophets as his messengers to warn and teach them. They did not heed the prophets and instead mocked, despised, and scoffed at them.
Sin continues today. We hear God’s Word over and over in our three-year cycle of readings for Sunday Mass (two-year cycle for daily Mass) but we still sin. We can’t find our way out of the darkness.
What are we to do?
We turn to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
God loves us. That’s what we are to see when we look at Jesus on the Cross. That’s why we, as Catholics, use Crucifixes. We know that Jesus is no longer bound to the Cross but it is the image of Jesus lifted up on the Cross that reveals God’s unlimited love for us. If we look at an empty cross, we see what God used as an instrument of salvation. If we look at Jesus on the Cross, we see salvation itself. We see God’s love.
Jesus is our light, the light that reveals our salvation. Yet, there are those who hate the light. The gospel speaks of them preferring darkness. I am not sure they “prefer” the darkness. Rather, perhaps they don’t even realize they are in the darkness. We need to be explicit and say that the darkness we are talking about is “sin”.
How could one not realize their sin? Shouldn’t darkness be obvious?
Picture yourself standing in the middle of a large room. The lights are all on. You can see everything clearly. Suddenly, because of the 12 inches of fresh snow and wind, the power goes out. You go from bright light to complete darkness in an instant. The darkness is obvious. At that moment, you cannot see anything. If you stand there, over time your eyes will adjust and you begin to see basic images. You can walk around in the darkness.
Now, put yourself back in the brightly light room. There is one difference this time. There is a dimmer switch on the light. Every few minutes, someone turns the dimmer down just a little bit, one notch at a time. The change of each notch is so subtle that you don’t even notice it but the darkness comes and you cannot see as you think.
So it is with sin. Sometimes our sin is big and we see the darkness. Other times, it is a slippery slope. Either way, we end up in darkness. What are we to do? How do we get out of the darkness?
God, “who is rich in mercy,” is the answer. In sin, we have become “dead in our transgressions” and it is only “by grace” that we can be saved.
What must we do to receive this grace?
You cannot earn it from works. “It is the gift of God.” It is freely given by God. If we desire the gift, we must strive to follow Jesus as the way and the truth and the life but we cannot save ourselves.
To be saved, we must come to Jesus with contrite hearts to ask for forgiveness. God eagerly waits to forgive us. There is only one thing that stops God from forgiving us.
We are the only thing that can stop God from forgiving us. We have to admit our sins. We have to ask him for forgiveness. The way we do this is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).
Going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation isn’t easy. We don’t like to admit our faults. We don’t even like admitting them to ourselves, let alone others but it is how we hand them over to God.
So, we have our annual diocesan Day of Penance this Wednesday. When was the last time you went? Do you think you need to? Maybe, maybe not. Then, make a good examination of conscience such as one found on the pamphlets we put out last week and this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your sins so you can hand them over to Jesus.
God is rich in mercy and ready to forgive you. You just have to ask with a contrite heart.