March 14, 2021
God, rich in mercy, for the great love with which He loved us,
being dead for sins, he has made us revive with Christ.
God so loved the world, that He gave his Only Begotten,
so that everyone who believes in him does not perish, but has eternal life.
Reading the second book of Chronicles 36, 14-16. 19-23
In those days, all the chiefs, priests, and people multiplied their infidelities, imitating the aberrations of peoples and desecrating the temple of the Lord, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
The Lord, God of his parents, sent messengers to them daily because he felt sorry for his people and their abode; But they sneered at God’s messengers, laughed at his words, and mocked his prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was hopelessly ignited against his people.
They burned down the temple of God, toppled the wall of Jerusalem, burned down all its palaces, and destroyed all valuable objects. He deported to Babylon all those who had escaped from the sword. They were slaves of his and his sons until the advent of the Persian kingdom. Thus was fulfilled what God had said through Jeremiah:
“Until the earth pays on Saturdays, it will rest every day of desolation, until seventy years old.”
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, to fulfill what God had said through Jeremiah, the Lord moved Cyrus, king of Persia, to promulgate by word and in writing throughout his kingdom:
“Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: The Lord, God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has commissioned me to build him a temple in Jerusalem of Judah. Whoever among you belongs to that people can return. May the Lord, his God, be with him!”
Come out 136, 1-2. 3. 4. 5. 6
Let my tongue stick to my palate if I don’t remember you.
Next to the channels of Babylon we sat weeping wistfully with Zion; in the willows on its banks we hung our tails. R/.
There those who deported us invited us to sing;
our oppressors, to amuse them: “Sing a song of Zion.” R/.
How to sing a song of the Lord on foreign soil!
If I forget you, Jerusalem, I’ll be paralyzed by my right hand. R/.
Let my tongue stick to my palate if I don’t remember you,
if I don’t put Jerusalem at the peak of my joys. R/.
Reading St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 2, 4-10
God, rich in mercy, for the great love with which He loved us, being dead for sins, has made us revive with Christ—we are saved by sheer grace; He has resurrected us with Christ Jesus, he has sat us in heaven with him, to reveal in the coming times the immense richness of his grace, through his goodness to us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, by grace we are saved, through faith. And this does not come from us: it is God’s gift. It doesn’t come from the works either, so no one can brag.
We are, then, his work. God has created us in Christ Jesus, so that we may dedicate ourselves to good works, which he had beforehand that we may practice.
Reading the Holy Gospel according to John 3, 14-21
At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses raised the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be raised, that all who believe in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that He gave his Only Begotten, that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but for the world to be saved by him.
He who believes in him will not be judged; He who does not believe is already judged, for he has not believed in the name of the Only Begotten of God.
This is the judgment: that light came into the world, and men preferred darkness to light, for their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate light, and he does not come near the light, so as not to be accused of his works.
Instead, he who works the truth approaches the light, that his works may be seen to be done according to God.”
We are already celebrating the fourth Sunday of Lent, called “laetare” Sunday, which means “rejoice”. We are asked, from the liturgy and the Word of God, to live our faith and our Christian life with joy. Pope Francis is constantly inviting all Christians to live joyfully our relationship with God and with others, avoiding being Christians who are constantly faced with vinegar or funeral face. At the beginning of his Pontificate he offered us a beautiful and paradigmatic text, under the title “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), to encourage us to live our faith with optimism, without complexes, assuming the reality that surrounds us, without sweetening or camouflaging difficulties, but with a hopeful gaze that always trusts in the Lord. It is worth, on a day like today, to re-mention at least a few paragraphs of this ever-new and current document by Pope Francis.
It is clear that the joy we are told of is not a mere circumstantial mood, but rather a constant attitude, a fundamental ingredient of faith and life, even a virtue that the Christian cannot do without. We cannot confuse it with the passing euphoria of a given moment caused by small achievements or external stimuli. The authentic joy of the Christian is above the sorrows that come to all of us before or after, in one way or another. The joy of the Gospel is certainly an option of life, a choice, a way of coping with suffering, adversity, disease, loneliness, and any focus of sadness that may haunt us. Far from being a fiction, it must be a conviction. Living with joy heals us inside and out, dignifies us, makes us better people, facilitates relationships, relativizes failures, helps to live in truth, drives our love and do. It is also a gift that we must ask the Lord in a way.
Realistically, we must recognize that we all have reason to be sad, both individually or intimately and collectively. Sometimes we even are and we are not able to identify the motive. It can be the loss of a loved one, loneliness, rejection or forgetfulness of those whom we love and for whom we have fought so hard, a disease, the passage of years and old age, a loving or family failure or a project of life, a slander, a deception, a theft, the loss of property, the lack of decent and well-paid work… they can even be community or social reasons such as the lack of future prospects in the society in which we live, the anguish at what may come, the loss of trust in authorities and rulers, the same pandemic that plagues us globally.
It would be good if today we asked each other these two questions: Am I a joyful or sad Christian? And if I’m sad, what are the motives or are they? Circumstantial sadness can affect us, but not invading or nullify us, it may come, but it has no right to stay permanently. Today’s Christians, anywhere in the world, at the social moment we live in, cannot allow the widespread sadness, manifested in recurrent and collective discouraged conformism, to become the endemic, if not pandemic, disease of our time.
In today’s Word of God we find the foundations of Christian joy. The first reading tells us about the infidelity of God’s people to the Covenant he had sealed with the Lord. The consequence of this was the loss of all his property and exile. They forgot about God and misfortune came to them and, as a consequence, deep sadness. However, the Lord never forgot his people and led to the return to the promised land and the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the foundation of authentic joy is that God never forgets us, or anyone else. We are your loving creatures and we are always in your love, thinking and doing. We’re never alone. He always accompanies us.
St Paul, in the second reading, abounds in the explanation of this foundation. God, rich in mercy, has loved us first and keeps us in his love, saves us from our sins, draws us out of our miseries; by faith and baptism has resurrected us to a new life. Without any self-deserve, he gives us our lives every day so that we can use it to do good, as his work as we are, and by doing good we become more and more like Him. From the first minute of our earthly existence to the last we are loved by Him.
In today’s gospel we are told that the great sign of God’s love for each of us is Jesus Christ crucified, who offers life so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. The foundation, therefore, of our joy must be the same love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, who came not to judge us and condemn us but to save us. If we reject him, it is when we freely dispense with his salvation and call ourselves to an irretrievable existential failure whose common denominator will be deep sadness. Living life with Christ and from Christ fills us with light, peace and joy, even in the night of pain and suffering.
Pope Francis wrote some time ago about today’s Gospel: “Even when the situation seems desperate, God intervenes, offering man salvation and joy. And we have the true and great hope in God the Father, rich in mercy, who has given us his Son to save us, and that is our joy. It is true that we also have many sorrows, but when we are real Christians, hope is in us, that little joy that grows and gives you security. We must not be discouraged when we see our limitations, our sins, our weaknesses: God is there at your side, Jesus is on the cross to heal you. This is God’s love. We must look at the Crucified One and say to ourselves inwardly: “God loves me”. It is true that we have limitations, weaknesses, and sins, but He is greater than all limitations, sins, and weaknesses.”
Thus, on the way to Easter, even on the tortuous paths of suffering and the cross, we never lack the joy of knowing ourselves loved by the Father and saved by Christ the Lord. And may we be able to externalize and communicate the joy of the gospel wherever we live without complexes and with determination.
We thank you, Lord, for you have deposed anger
and you have stopped before the people the hand that punishes him.
You are the God who saves us, the light that enlightens us,
the hand that holds us and the roof that shelters us.
And we will joyfully draw from the spring of Life
the waters that give man the strength to be resurrected.
Then we will proclaim, “Sing to him with joy!
The name of God is great; your charity, infinite!
May he praise the Lord for the earth! Tell him his wonders.
How great, in the midst of the people, the God who justifies us!” amen.
(Hymn of the liturgy of the hours)