“[I]t is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5)

Fourth Sunday of Lent

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

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 which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. 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.” In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Ephesians 2:4-10

Brothers and sisters: 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 — by grace you have been saved —, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

John 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

In this Sundayʼs Gospel reading, we have assurance from St. John that God still loves us immensely despite the sinfulness of humanity that is responsible for the darkness and evils of the world, “God does not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that God‘s love for us is unconditional, “it is by grace you have been saved”. Although our salvation is “not the result of works, so that no one can boast”, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2: 5, 8, 10).

How do we live our life in good works? St. Paulʼs advice is “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:9). What does this mean in our own circumstances? We must find out and act accordingly. In whatever good we do to our neighbours, sometimes it could be a sincere greeting, a kind word, a warm smile, considerate thinking and listening with the heart that makes all the difference. This reminds me of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus when we pray “The Way of the Cross” during Lent. What she does cannot relieve Jesusʼ pain and suffering, but her courageous action offers solace to Jesus as he walks the desolate path of His Passion.

The following prayer taken from Station Six, The Way of the Cross with Pope Francis, published by CNEWA Canada* in 2017, is food for thought as we contemplate what is pleasing to God:

“Lord, help me to see Your face in my brothers and sisters who walk the way of pain and humiliation.

Teach me to dry the tears and blood of those trodden down in every age. Of all those ruthlessly cast aside by a rich and careless society.

Help me to glimpse Your face of infinite beauty behind every human face.”

Amen.

*CNEWA Canada stands for Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Posted: March 11, 2018

Shiu Lan

 
Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.


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