Fourth Sunday of Lent
Historical Background: Jesus was still at the beginning of his apostolic life and had already been making a tremendous impact on the people, particularly because of the miracles he had been performing.
The interest he aroused was not limited to the simple people. Even the religious authorities, including the Sanhedrin, though shocked by Jesus’ driving the traders out of the temple, realized that he was a “teacher who has come from God” (Jn 3:2). One of them, Nicodemus, went personally to see Jesus secretly (at right) to try to know more about his teaching and identity.
Introduction: Today’s Gospel passage is thje concluding part of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The one who speaks from beginning to end is Jesus who stresses:
a) The saving roles of the “lifting up” of the “Son of Man”
b) The universal love of the Father
c) The saving mission of the Son of God, and;
d) The division of mankind into two groups: those who reject the light of God’s love and those who accept it with joy.
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.
Historical Background: The history of God’s Chosen People was often characterized by unfaithfulness to the Covenant- an unfaithfulness which was exposed by the prophets and which brought on the kingdoms of Israel and Judah the weight of divine justice.
Such a view is found in the two books of Chronicles which contain a theological interpretation especially of the history of the Kingdom of Judah. This interpretation is formulated in light of God’s promise that He will punish David’s erring descendants but never withdrew His favor from them. (See 2 Sm 7:12-16)
Introduction: Today’s passage offers a summary judgement on the history of the Kingdom of Judah. The Author sees in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Exile a “medicinal punishment” sent by God to lead his people to repentance, and to the proclamation of Cyrus God’s faithfulness to His promise to David.
2 Chr 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!”
Historical Background: Although traditionally considered addressed by the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Ephesus, this letter is viewed by many modern biblical scholars as intended for several communities in Asia Minor. It contains splendid synthesis of the authors’s view on the Church and of salvation history as the unfolding of God’s plan which finds its unity in Jesus Christ.
Introduction: Today’s excerpt focuses on the centrality of Christ in God’s plan and emphasizes that it is by God’s grace that we are saved and not by personal efforts apart from Christ. The Apostle reminds his audience that their salvation is, first of all, a gift from God’s love. It is thanks to divine grace that the believers are empowered to perform the good works that are an indispensible part of the process of salvation.
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.