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Immeasurable riches

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GOSPEL COMMENTARY march 14, jn 3:14-21

The fourth Sunday of Lent is also called Laetare Sunday, a name taken from the first words of the traditional entrance antiphon for this Sunday, "Rejoice, O Jerusalem." This Sunday is intended by Mother Church to be a moment of encouragement near the halfway point of the Lenten season traditionally marked by a variety of penitential practices that can weigh us down along the way. To mark this day at Mass, the altar may be decorated with flowers, more robust music sung and rose-colored vestments worn. Laetare Sunday is an invitation to rejoice because we have progressed through a good portion of our Lenten observances and our Easter celebrations are drawing near.

Accordingly, the Scripture readings for this Sunday have a strong note of joy. They proclaim the over-the-top goodness and generosity of almighty God. St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, speaks of "the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." It is not possible to quantify or measure the riches God has poured out upon us in Jesus. However, we are summoned to ponder them in faith and allow them to be a cause of great rejoicing.

First and foremost, our heavenly Father’s greatest gift to the world is the very gift of his Son. In Jesus, God’s tender love is manifest in the most beautiful way possible. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." It is imperative we fight the tendency to be dulled in our appreciation of something beautiful because it has become familiar to us, and ponder in prayer the immeasurable riches we have received from the Father who sent his only-begotten Son to dwell among us and suffer so humbly for our sins. When was the last time you took some quality time to genuinely praise God for the gift of Jesus?

In Jesus, the Father’s mercy is poured out upon a hurting world. Jesus traveled from town to town offering forgiveness with surprising tenderness and generosity to those with an ounce of faith and sorrow for their sins. "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk?’ " To acknowledge and confess our sins in humility and to hear God say through the priest, "… and I absolve your sins in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" is a marvelous blessing. In the words of Psalm 13, "Let my heart rejoice in your salvation; let me sing of the Lord, ‘He has been good to me’ " (Ps 13:6).

In Jesus, the path to abundant life is revealed. Our earthly journey can be rather confusing and quite difficult at times. It is very easy to be overwhelmed by the darkness of sin and selfishness around us and even inside of us. Yet, there is a burning sense in our gut that we were created by God for a certain measure of fullness. We ache for deeper meaning and purpose. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He reveals in the Gospels a way of life that answers the great longings of the human heart. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). In the words of Psalm 33, "Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; for praise is fitting for loyal hearts" (Ps 33:1).

In Jesus, we have been given a mission. Daily living often feels rather mundane and monotonous. We are tempted to wonder if we have anything of value to contribute to the world around us. As Jesus was ending his days dwelling among us, he made us sharers in his mission of building his kingdom of life, truth and love. He calls each of us personally to play a critical role in this kingdom. He established a plan for each of us from the beginning of time that invites us to use our gifts, experiences and faith to share his grace and love with others. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34). Participating in this mission is enormously life-giving. In the words of Psalm 31: "I will rejoice and be glad of your kindness, when you have seen my affliction and watched over me in my distress" (Ps 31:8).

In Jesus, eternal life is promised. Our nation reached a most tragic milestone recently — 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus. May God pour out his mercy and love upon all who have died during this pandemic. Jesus’ mercy is powerful — it wipes away our sins, restores our broken relationship with the Father and paves the way to eternal life. "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). The Father greatly desires to bring every one of us to heaven, where there is life without end, the fulfillment of all our unfulfilled desires, and the gift of gazing upon the loveliness of God and singing his praises with all of the angels and saints. How can we not be totally overwhelmed by this offer? In the words of Psalm 40, "But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you, and may those who love your salvation say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified’ " (Ps 40:17).

Dedicate yourself this day to rejoicing in God for the immeasurable riches he pours out in Christ Jesus.

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021