4th Sunday of Lent
It is not uncommon for people to question or lose their faith in God because of the evil in the world. Whether it is a great natural disaster, or a personal experience of pain and suffering, they ask, “How could God allow such pain and suffering to go on?” When there is no answer to the question, they either blame God, or claim that God does not even exist.
In today’s reading from the ancient book of Chronicles, it is clear that the Jews blamed themselves for the destruction of their homeland, and their subsequent enslavement by their enemies. Not only had they engaged in infidelity and abominable practices, but also they resisted all attempts to warn them about their misdeeds.
But they mocked the messengers of God,Despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets…
The biblical writer speaks of a compassionate God whose compassion turned to anger when warnings were ignored and despised. I don’t know if anger is the right word even though some use passages like these to imagine a stern, unforgiving God who hurls lightning bolts at those who step out of line. Actually, this is an image of God that comes from the pagan gods.
In today’s gospel St. John presents us with a different vision of God. After being questioned by Nicodemus, one of the Jewish leaders, Jesus predicted his own suffering, death, and resurrection. As we approach Holy Week we might wonder why Jesus had to suffer and die? What did he do wrong? What sin did he commit? It is a great mystery.
This passage from John, one of the most famous in the Bible, indicates that compassion and love rather than wrath and anger are the reason for the Passion of Jesus. He suffered and died so that we would not have to suffer and die. God gave his Son so that we would not have to give our own children. We would not even have to sacrifice birds and other animals. Here are the words.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,So that everyone who believes in him might not perishBut might have eternal life.
Jesus came as a healer. He said his yoke was easy and his burden light. He criticized those who put unnecessary burdens on the shoulders of others. He urged his disciples not to condemn or judge others. He told them to heal the suffering, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry.
I know of a young man who ridiculed his mother's religious faith because of the suffering that her mother, his grandmother, had to endure at the end of her life. "Where was your God when Nana was suffering?" The answer to his question was staring him in the face. His mother had taken care of her mother every day and stayed with her throughout her suffering. She was one of those rare individuals who absolutely refused to place her mother in a nursing home. The young man also must have known that his mother, a Catholic, had also spent countless hours consoling a Jewish friend who had lost a young child. Why couldn't the young man see the Lord in his midst in the faith of his own mother?
Just like our Lord she gave of herself for her mother, her friend, and for her son.
In today’s second reading St. Paul, who regarded himself as one of the greatest of sinners, shows that his own personal experience of the Risen Lord made him understand that God was a God of love.
God, who is rich in mercy,Because of the great love He had for us,Even when we were dead in our transgressions,Brought us to life with Christ…
Jesus did not regard pain and suffering as a good thing or even a necessary evil. Wherever he could he healed, and urged his followers to do the same.
*Image by Melissa DeStefano
*Image by Melissa DeStefano
Reading 1. 2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23.
Reading II. Ephesians 2: 4-10.
Gospel. John 3: 14-21 (God so loved the world…)