Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. Laetare means “rejoice.” As we approach the celebration of the Feast of Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, which is the core foundation of our faith, the Church invites us to rejoice by being reconciled with God through confession and repentance of our sins. The central theme of today’s readings is that our salvation is the free gift of a merciful God, given to everyone through His Son. The readings stress God’s mercy and compassion and remind us of the great love, kindness and grace extended to us in Christ.
The first reading is taken from the second book of the Chronicles. The reading presents the successful periods of Israel’s development as God’s reward for their fidelity, and the tragedies which befell Israel as God’s punishment for its infidelity. The reading shows how the people’s infidelities caused them to lose the Temple and their homeland, and how God arranged, through the pagan king of Persia, to return them to their homeland and to help them rebuild His Temple. It shows that God is willing to use any means possible to save His people.
In the second reading, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us to focus on the mystery of salvation as a gift to sinners. Paul teaches that, although we don’t deserve anything from God on our own merits, God chose to love, save and give life to us because of His great mercy and love. The reading further reveals that we are “saved through faith;” it also makes clear that this faith itself “is the gift of God.”
The Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus, the Son of God, became the agent of God’s salvation, not just for some, but for everyone. The Gospel teaches us that God expressed His love, mercy and compassion for us by giving His only Son for our salvation. Nicodemus, the wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, meets Jesus by night and begins a long religious discussion. Jesus explains to him that he must believe Jesus’ words because He is the Son of God. He further explains to Nicodemus God’s plan of salvation by referring to the story of Moses and the bronze serpent. Just as God saved the victims of serpent bite through the bronze serpent, He will save mankind from its sins by permitting the crucifixion and death of His Son Jesus because the love of God for mankind is that great.
Lent provides us with opportunities to grow in faith. We have several activities planned in the church this coming week: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesday, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, Stations of the Cross on Thursday, at 2:15 pm led by the Academy students and a living Stations of the Cross on Friday, at 6:00 pm led by the students of the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Please join us as they spiritually walk us through the Stations of the Cross.
Our parish mission is from Monday, March 19th to Wednesday, March 21st. The Reverend James Sichko will give a talk at 6:00 pm those three nights. We will conclude the parish mission on Wednesday with a penance service at 7:00 pm. There will be several priests here to hear confessions. Rev. Sichko will celebrate a few Masses and will preach at all Masses next weekend. He is a famous preacher, so you don’t want to miss him. For more information, please see the bulletin insert this weekend or call the parish office. In order to defray the cost of the parish mission including stipend, airfare, accommodations for Rev. Sichko, there will be envelopes made available. Please use those envelopes to make your contributions, and make checks payable to Santa Sophia Parish. You may drop the envelopes in the basket during the parish mission or drop them in the collection basket or parish office.