Sunday readings: Rejoice, Jesus our light is near

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Readings for March 18

Fourth Sunday of Lent

2 Chronicles 36:14-16; 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

Light has come into the world; whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.

I begin my commentary with a story about a famous golfer who appeared at heaven’s gates. Upon his arrival, our Lord asked him: What did you do to arrive here? The golfer proudly displayed his U.S. Open trophy. The Lord said: that doesn’t count here. Next, the golfer showed our Lord his PGA gold card. Once again, our Lord said sorry, that doesn’t count either. Now, very nervous, the golfer explained that he was a terrific husband and loving father to which our Lord replied: you were supposed to be both while on earth. Finally, the golfer said: you know, Lord, two years ago I turned my life over to Jesus. The Lord said, “You can enter now.”

Our Gospel message is very simple and direct: “Jesus, the light, has come to save the world. Whoever does not see the light or believe in the light is at a disadvantage.”

Deacon Joseph Cilia

John uses the image of darkness to describe a relationship without Jesus and the impact spiritual darkness can have on our human hearts. He explains how darkness can blur our faith and lead us to disbelief.

We do not have a “convenience faith,” meaning that we turn to Jesus only when we perceive we are in spiritual danger.  At baptism, each of us was marked by Christ and marked for Christ. Through the words: Receive the light of Christ and keep it burning brightly, we were commissioned to not only touch others in the same way(s) Jesus touches us but also to be the light to others.

As St. Paul tells the Ephesains in our Second Reading, “We are his handiwork created in Christ Jesus.”

As we continue our Lenten journey, the real challenge for each of us is stated in the following questions: Do we need Jesus’ light; do we want Jesus’ light, do we want Jesus to help us find and embrace his light?

We all believe Jesus can work in our lives; some, however, wonder if Jesus wants to work in our lives. Our faith affirms that Jesus can and will change our lives. John confirms this in today’s Gospel with his words: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world … whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.”

Lent is a time of prayer and enlightenment, a special time in our faith journey to open ourselves to Jesus and understand his will. Our Lenten journey invites us to keep the eyes of our heart open so that we can walk and live as “people of the Light” and not allow our blind spots to blur our vision of what Jesus is offering. When we truly surrender to Jesus we realize he is all we need; moreover, we clearly understand that we have been chosen to be his light to others in darkness.

Holy Mother church also calls this Fourth Sunday of Lent “Laetare” Sunday. Rose vestments are worn as a sign of rejoicing. Rejoicing not because Lent’s 40 days of fast, sacrifice, and reflection are almost finished. Rejoicing because Jesus, our light, is near. As we continue this Lenten journey, may we reflect often on St. Paul’s words: “You shine as lights in the world.” May we, like the famous golfer, unconditionally and freely turn our lives over to Jesus. When he did so, the golfer realized that he could accomplish anything through Jesus who strengthened him.

The choice is ours. Our relationship with Jesus can only be strengthened if we ensure our lives reflect the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is darkness, light.”

Deacon Joseph Cilia serves at the Church of the Holy Child in Wilmington.