Just a word… Fourth Sunday of Lent…

Just a word… Fourth Sunday of Lent… March 14, 2021…

On this Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are meant to take a break from the somberness that accompanies Lent and rejoice in the truth of our faith. Using the vehicle of a discourse from Jesus to Nicodemus, the one who visits Jesus in the dark to learn about his teachings, this gospel speaks to us about the struggle between light and darkness, between good and evil, between truth and falsehood. We hear that oft-quoted verse, “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.” The cause for rejoicing comes from the words “God so loved the world…and eternal life.” The ultimate light, goodness and truth of our faith resides in these words. For it is in the Incarnation, and the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus that we find our inspiration and the hope for our ultimate destiny.

Throughout my life I have gleaned glimpses of this truth, of the reality that God is love, and is in love with each one of us far beyond our ability to earn that love. This knowledge was brought home to me in a dramatic way about twenty-five years ago. It was mid-December when my father called me in the middle of the night to say that something was wrong; I ran to his house, found him in distress, and called the ambulance. The driver told me my father would be fine. My daughter and I left for the hospital and waited, but my father never arrived. We later found out that the ambulance diverted to a hospital that was closer, as my father was dying. We passed an ambulance pulled over to the side of the road and said a prayer for that family that was also experiencing an emergency. Little did we know, my father was in that ambulance.

That Christmas was a blur; the following Christmas, dreading the holiday, I was the reader at Mass, and after Communion was pushing up prayers to heaven for the strength to get through the day. I was missing my father and was not the least bit interested in celebrating. I stopped pushing up my prayers and was quiet. And then it happened: I heard my father’s voice, as clear as a bell, saying, “I love you, baby!” In that moment, the grief and the regrets that inevitably surface after a lifetime of interactions with a loved one, lifted and I saw (and heard) the truth. I felt God’s love, and my father’s; I knew beyond a doubt that my father was safely enfolded in God’s embrace, as was I. And I was freed from the sorrow and guilt that so often follow a death, free to live in the knowledge that I was a beloved daughter and that God desired good for me, and not evil, all the days of my life… and of yours.

The “immeasurable riches of grace” Paul refers to in the second reading tells us that God’s love is pure gift and does not depend upon us. That is not only a relief, but a source of joy.

Today, on this Laetare Sunday, let us rejoice that we are all beloved daughters and sons, that God’s love is a gift freely offered; let us be grateful for that love and for the abundance that we have been showered with, and are called to share.

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