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Select Exegesis
March, 11 2018

4th Sunday of Lent (B)

Sr. Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

2 Chr 36:14-16; 19-23 Ps 137 Eph 2:4-10 John 3:14-21

            The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday from the Latin for Rejoice.  The term is taken from an oracle in Third Isaiah that begins with the word “Rejoice” and describes the city of Jerusalem under the metaphor of a mother. (Is 66:10-11).  The restoration of the city enabled her to provide for all her people with abundance and joy. 

           As we move through Lent we now draw closer to the celebration of the Paschal Mysteries of Easter time.  We will rejoice in our redemption from a kind of exile from which our world has emerged to renewal of life in Christ.  Our first reading is the Chronicler’s view of Jerusalem’s fall and exilic experience which was eventually succeeded by the return of the exiles to their homeland.  The Chronicler’s work ends on a note of hope which may have been added by another hand so that the text would end on a joyous theme.
            The Psalm response is based on the greatest communal lament in the Psalter.  It is a lament over the city of Jerusalem that reflects the absolute devastation of the exiles in Babylon.  It also reflects, though more by inference, their latent devotion to their city and their traditions.  Their sacred purpose is never to forget them and to set Jerusalem above their highest joy. (Ps 137)  
            Our second reading continues our reflection by advancing the theme of mercy.  As Ephesians puts it, when we were dead through sinfulness, God made us alive through Christ by grace.  Through our incorporation into Christ we have been raised up in him, and mystically we are already seated with him in glory.  By God’s gift of grace to us we 
have become his workmanship so we can walk in good works prepared by him beforehand.  
            John’s Gospel passage moves our reflection forward with the thought that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that those who believe in him can have eternal life.  The Son became incarnate so as to bring to humankind the opportunity to participate, in some way, in the life of God himself.  
            Further, the Evangelist draws a parallel between the story of the bronze serpent mounted by Moses in the desert, and Christ lifted up on the cross.  Those who in obedience looked upon the serpent were cured of the effects of serpent bites. (Num 21:9)  
All who look upon Christ on the cross and who believe in him may have eternal life. (Jn 3:14)  
            John also draws a contrast between light and darkness.  Christ is the light who has come into the world.  Those who love evil avoid light because the light exposes their evil deeds.  The ones who love what is true come to the light and their deeds can be known as having been wrought in God.  
            All of this helps us to consider our Lenten faith journey and to enter into it at this point with renewed dedication and fervor.  Holy Week and Easter are coming closer.  Laetare!  Rejoice!  

 Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.



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