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Scripture Study: Fourth Sunday of Lent

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By Marc Massery (Mar 9, 2018)
Find the readings for this Sunday here.

Sunday, March 11 — Fourth Sunday of Lent
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
• Psalm 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
• Ephesians 2:4-10
• John 3:14-21


Even before we were aware of it, our parents took care of our every need and fussed over our many cries. A child, of course, does not need to do anything to earn the love of a parent. Parents love their children simply because they are just that — their children. In the readings for this weekend, God reveals how He loved us from the very beginning, even while we remained ignorant of His compassion for us.

In the first reading, the people of Judah are "practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD's temple" (2 Chr 36:14). God sends His prophets to warn them, but they do not listen. As a result, the Babylonians sack Jerusalem, burn down the Temple, and take the Lord's people captive. Even though the Jewish people deserve this sad fate, God loves them too much to abandon them. He leads King Cyrus and the Persians to conquer Babylon, set the Jews free, and restore the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish people did nothing to earn this deliverance, but in His mercy God rescued them anyway.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says that even while we were "dead in our transgressions," God's great love for us "brought us to life with Christ" (Eph 2:5). We did nothing to merit God's salvation, which is why St. Paul says, "[I]t is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8).

In the Gospel, we read a most famous Scripture passage that summarizes the free gift of God's love. It says, "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" (Jn 3:16). God loved the world into being, and did not stop loving us even when we rebelled against Him. He did not fall out of love with us when we turned our backs on Him. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross did not all of the sudden change God's mind from condemnation to mercy. Our salvation began with God's unchanging love, which persisted even while we "preferred darkness to light" (Jn 3:19).

Human love, of course, can fail. Some parents tragically abandon their kids, and millions have even aborted their children. Sometimes spouses divorce, and families fall apart. Our human love for each other can only endure so much wrong. But God's love can bear any evil, any rebellion on our part. He loves us as we are and not as we should be. No matter how far we've strayed, we can be sure that He's fighting right now to bring us close to Him so that He can pour out His grace upon us and give us eternal life. As the most merciful Father, He wants what's best for us, even when we don't know any better.

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