This Lent, May We Open Ourselves to God’s Love

User’s Guide to the Fourth Sunday of Lent

The cross reflects the depth of Jesus’ love.
The cross reflects the depth of Jesus’ love. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, March 10, is the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Mass readings: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Psalm 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21.

The readings from the’s Mass speak to us of our desperate condition and how God’s abiding love has not only set us free but has lifted us higher as well. Let’s look at some of the themes and ponder how God demonstrates his ardent love for us.

“In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple”: The cup of human wickedness never seems drained. This is what God has been dealing with in the long and often sad tale of human history. Any honest look at human history will reveal that there is something deeply flawed in human nature. This is what God is dealing with. 

“Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people … but they mocked the messengers of God”: God’s first attempt is to call us through the prophets and through his word. Like any loving Father, he does not seek merely to punish, but to instruct. Hoprfully, we will hear and mend our ways.

“Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire …” God must move from instruction and warning to punishment. The purpose of punishment is to allow us to experience the effects of our sins in smaller ways so that something worse does not befall us. God may well permit great suffering to come upon us, not to vent his anger, but rather to summon us to repentance, lest something worse befall us — namely, the eternal fires of hell. 

“All this was to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah: ‘Until the land has retrieved its lost Sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.’” Sin causes damage and that damage must be repaired. We must understand that sin is not just the breaking of abstract rules; it causes real harm. The Christian term “reparation” refers to the repair that must be made for the damage caused by sin.  

As the Gospel reminds us: 

“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.” 

Despite our ruinous state, God does not remove his love; his love for us remains ardent.

The Gospel also states: “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned. … [P]eople have preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” God has done everything to help us and to summon us to him, but he does not force the deal. He stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20). He does not barge in; we must open ourselves to him. Here, then, is the peril of human free will: God offers, but some reject him, preferring sin and darkness. The peril comes from us, from our obtuse hearts. It is not from God.

For those of us who do open ourselves to him, God’s love is ready to lift us higher. He offers us eternal life, the fullness of a life that grows richer every year until it opens to one so full and beautiful that eye has not seen nor has ear heard of the glories waiting for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). Praise God, and rejoice!