Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Lent “laetare”
The 4th Sunday of Lent which is also called as “Laetare”, is a pause on the long journey towards Easter, marked by the fast for forty days. On this Sunday the Church was pausing for a while, interrupting the fast for a day. The liturgy has a joyous beginning since the entrance antiphon, taken from the prophet Isaiah: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast”, the joy of being almost close to the Easter.
In 587 B.C. the king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar seizes and destroys Jerusalem, sets the temple on fire and deports the most useful/capable part of the population to slavery leaving back the older folk. The liturgy of today in the first reading presents us the conclusion of the second book of the Chronicles, whose anonymous author meditates on this disaster that no Israelite could ever have imagined. They looted/ plundered the temple of God. How could this happen?
The reason for deportation is – in the light of faith – the pride of the people of Jerusalem who despised, mocked and ignored the prophets – who were the truth bearers of God. It is not the temples that will save us – the temples with all that they mean of power and privilege, they will be destroyed – it is the truth of the love of God that precedes us, that saves us.
The truth that saves us is that God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son (Jn 3:16)… This verse is the pivot around which the whole history of God with man lives. God has loved, a past that however continues, lasts forever and flourishes even today. The Truth is the Good News that we should repeat on every awakening, on every difficulty, on any distrust. We are not Christians because we love God more; we are Christians because we believe that God loves us.
In the Gospel “to love” is not abstract instead it is something concrete that which realizes in ‘giving’, donating’ and ‘sacrificing’. This is also with God who never retained anything, even his only Son, which he gave to the world so that the world may be saved in and through him. Hence, God does nothing else but giving eternally, his Son Jesus Christ, who came from the Father as an intention of good, for our life, and calls us to remove that false image of a punitive God who frightens us and in which we were often educated. Love never causes fear;
Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night. Jesus through the darkness of narrow mindedness takes him to the understanding, in the light of the world surrounding him. Let us remember that the world is not bad or evil (as states the false and ignorant spirituality), the world is just a place where freedom plays its entire game: with God, without God, against God, indifferent to God. It’s our choices that determine our exile or our liberation. The God of Jesus Christ, the revealer of the Father, is always beside us, and leaves us free to choose. We too must learn from God to respect everyone’s freedom. Listening to the Word of God means entering into this logic, that is, proclaiming the Gospel without overpowering, with the certainty that even when we move away from him, we always find him near us, because Jesus never abandoned us, even during the time of the exile. Not even in the exile of pain, of unbelief, can snatch us from the arms of his paternal love that illuminates us every night like as it was for Nicodemus.
It is necessary to note the verse 21 of the Gospel of John in chapter 3 which concludes the verses quoted by the liturgy; we have a strong expression: “to live the truth”. We are used to, to seek, to know the truth (science, philosophy), but we are not used to “to live it”. Here, while science and philosophy legitimately seek the truth, the faith instead does what is true, it completes it. What is the truth in John? The Greek term alētheia has more or less the meaning of the term mystērion in St Paul. It indicates the depth of our being where there is the synthesis between love and pain, the meeting point between the human experience and the divine presence, between freedom and the gift. For John as for Paul, the truth is a person who comes to meet us; to be true means to let ourselves to be loved by Christ who comes to meet us and to do the same with the brothers who come to meet us.
This is why in John the “Truth” is related to “the judgment” because choosing it means taking a position for or against the person of Jesus, coming to light, coming out of the superficiality hidden by the darkness. Truth is judgment because it compels a choice and requires an assessment of what we are and what we do. Christianity is a behavior.
This is the mission of the Church as it is a “sacrament”: it should always reveal Christ-Truth to be met, not as a system of doctrines to be known because there is the perennial risk of making it an ideology, a moral philosophy. Unveiling the Truth/Christ means helping men and women to descend into the deep well of their conscience and to remain there listening to the voice of the one who comes to call you them by name because only he knows what is in each of us (Jn. 2:24).