Scripture Reflection for March 10, Fourth Sunday of Lent

2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23

Ps 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

Eph 2:4-10

Jn 3:14-21

Need a summary of the Christian faith? This Sunday's Gospel offers one. "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). The evangelist John leads us to the heart of the Gospel and the heart of Christian faith.

At the midpoint of Lent, we take stock of our Lenten observances. Are my Lenten practices bringing me closer to the mystery of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection? Am I growing in friendship with God and love of neighbor through prayer, acts of penance and almsgiving?

The people of Israel took stock of their relationship with God from time to time. God was always faithful to Israel, calling them into a covenant relationship of love and mercy, as the first reading highlights. Yet, the people were unfaithful to God. The author of the Second Book of Chronicles describes their failings in stark terms: "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."

God sent messenger after messenger to return the people to God's deep and faithful love. Lenten observances are meant to open our hearts and minds to those messengers who call us to return to God's love. The Word of God and the Eucharist invite us, time and time again, to return to the mercy of God who is rich in kindness and fidelity. In the midst of busy days and many responsibilities, the Word of God calls us out of ourselves, to leave behind self-absorption, weakness, despair, and failure and to move into the light of God's mercy, joy, and covenant love.

Lent summons and guides our return to the Lord. Why? So, we may not perish but entrust ourselves to the love of God whose only son, Jesus, shepherds our journey to the joy and peace of eternal life. As St. Paul reminds the Ephesians, and us, "for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God."

In these remaining weeks of Lent, the Lord calls each of us by name to return to the forgiving, merciful embrace of God. In response to God's word, we renew our resolve to set aside time for prayer, to offer sacrifices that purify our hearts and minds, and to share our resources with those in need, as we pray in humble faith, "speak to me, Lord."

Question: How can I resolve to draw closer to God in word and sacrament?

- Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.