Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

2Chr 36:14-17, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jo 3:14-21


Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Rejoicing in God’s Love

2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23

Ephesians 2:4-10

John 3:14-21

“Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her” (Entrance Antiphon — Isaiah 66:10-11). Why does the church invite us in the middle of the penitential season of Lent to rejoice? The story of a little incident that took place in Mainz in 1456 when Gutenberg was printing the first printed Bible can help us with the answer.

The printer had a little daughter, Alice, who came into the printing press and picked up a discarded sheet with only one line of print. That line of print read: “God loved the world so much that he gave…” Now, those were times when popular religion was a matter of living in fear and trembling before the awesome wrath of God. So Alice put the paper in her pocket and kept on thinking on the fact of God being so loving, and her face radiated with joy. Her mother noticed her changed behaviour and asked Alice what was making her so happy and Alice showed her mother the sheet of paper with the printed line. Her mother looked at it for some time and said, “So, what did God give?” “I don’t know,” said Alice, “but if God loved us well enough to give us something, then we need not be so afraid of Him.”

What is love? What does it mean to say God loves us? To understand what the Bible means by God’s love we must bear in mind that whereas the Greek language has three different words for three different types of love English has only one. In Greek we have (1) eros meaning romantic love (like the love between a man and a woman that leads to marriage), (2) philia meaning fellowship love (like the love for football which brings people together to form a fan club), and there is (3) agap or sacrificial love (like the love that makes a mother risk her own life for her yet unborn child). In romantic love we long to receive, in fellowship love we long to give and take, in sacrificial love we long to give. Now, with what kind of love does God love us? God loves us with agap or sacrificial love. “God loved the world so much that He gave.” That is one big difference between God and us: God gives and forgives, we get and forget. Giving is a sign of agap. This is the kind of love God has for us. This is the kind of love we should have for one another. This is the kind of love that is lived in heaven. And where this kind of love is absent, what you get is hell.

A certain saint asked God to show her the difference between heaven and hell. So God sent an angel to take her, first to hell. There she saw men and women seated around a large table with all kinds of delicious food. But none of them was eating. They were all sad and yawning. The saint asked one of them, “Why are you not eating?” And he showed her his hand. A long fork about 4ft long was strapped to their hands such that each time they tried to eat they only threw the food on the ground. “What a pity” said the saint. Then the angel took her to heaven. There the saint was surprised to find an almost identical setting as in hell: men and women sitting round a large table with all sorts of delicious food, and with a four-foot fork strapped to their arms. But unlike in hell, the people here were happy and laughing. “What!” said the saint to one of them, “How come you are happy in this condition?” “You see,” said the man in heaven, “Here we feed one another.” Can we say that of our families, our neighbourhood, our church, our world? If we can say that, then we are not far from the kingdom of heaven.

Today the Church invites us to reflect on God’s love for the world and to be joyful because of it. God loves each and everyone of us, so much so that He give us His only son. Today we are invited to say yes to God’s love. It is sometimes hard to believe that God loves even me, But I believe it because I know that God loves unconditionally; no ifs, no buts. Then we can love God back and enter into a love relationship with God. Then, like little Alice, our faces will radiate the joy of God’s love. Then we shall learn to share God’s love with those around us. Then we shall learn to give to God and to one another,


Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent – on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

 Good Works, Our Way of Life

2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23

Ephesians 2:4-10

John 3:14-21

Today’s 2nd reading from the letter to the Ephesians contains two surprising teachings. One is that “God has raised us up with Christ and made us sit with him in the heavens” (Ephesians 2:6). Are we in heaven yet? The other is the popular only-by-faith, only-by-grace (sola fide, sola gratia) passage. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is a clear statement that good works do not count in the salvation of believers. Yet in the very next verse it says, “For we are … created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (verse 10). If we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, and if good works should be our way of life, how then are good works useless for salvation? In this reflection we shall try to understand more clearly what Ephesians means when it says that we have already been exalted and given our places in heaven together with Christ, and that we are saved by grace apart from works and yet that good works should be our way of life.

The author of the Letter to the Ephesians is a Christian optimist who already claims in faith what in fact belongs to us only in hope. Paul had taught that believers all form one body in Christ. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it“.(1 Corinthians 12:27). In Ephesians this doctrine is carried to its most logical conclusions. If we are parts of Christ’s body, and Christ’s body has been raised up to heaven and seated in the heavens, then we too are raised and seated in the heavens with him. This and similar extensions of Paul’s teachings, which we find in the Letter to the Ephesians, makes some scholars believe that Ephesians was written not by Paul himself but by one of his disciples writing in Paul’s name. The statement that we are already raised up and seated with Christ in heaven is a statement of faith and not of experience. The writer treats a reality that is not-yet as if it is already.

When we come to the issue of good works and salvation, we again notice a big shift from the position of Paul. Paul is clear and consistent in his teaching that “a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16, Romans 3:28). Paul is speaking of justification, which happens at the moment when a person repents, believes and is baptized in Jesus’ name. Paul is not speaking of salvation, which is something that takes place in the future of the believer, at the moment of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:15, 5:5). For now we are still being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18), our salvation is near (Romans 13:11), and we should work it out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). For Paul, the salvation of the believer in the world is a hope (1 Thessalonians 5:8) and not a done deal. In Ephesians, however, salvation is regarded as something that happens at the moment of belief in Christ. As such it is seen as an accomplished reality for the believer.

There is another important difference between Paul and Ephesians. Paul speaks of “works of the law” whereas Ephesians speaks of “good works.” The two are not the same. Works of the law are ritual actions prescribed by the law, such as circumcision, not eating hotdog, and not working on the Sabbath (Saturday). These actions, in themselves, might not be good or bad. They are done simply because the law says for them to be done. Good works, on the other hand, are good. They benefit people. Examples are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely. Paul does not dismiss good works, he only dismisses works of the law. Ephesians, on the contrary, seems to discount good works.

So, what then are we to make of the two difficult teachings in today’s 2nd reading, that we are already exalted and seated in heaven, and that good works do not count for salvation and yet should be our way of life? First, we should not try not to harmonise these teachings with those of Paul but see them as different teachings. In Ephesians we listen to a new teacher who highlights new aspects of the faith that Paul does not. What we possess in hope Ephesians sees as being already ours. That is how we are to understand the teaching that we are already in heaven with Christ. As for the apparently contradictory teaching on good works, we should stress the practical teaching in verse 10 that good works should be our way of life. Our coming to faith in Christ was made possible only by God’s grace. Our belonging to Christ is made possible only by faith. But our life as people who already believe in Christ should be marked by good works. As God’s people in the world, good works should be our way of life.


4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

In today’s first reading the writer calls attention to the fact that the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing abominations and polluting the temple. There are two points I would like to discuss this morning (evening). As we look at our society and the societies of our modern world, do we also fall into that category?

Consider our society here in the United States. Because of legalized abortion over 40 million unborn children have been sacrificed on the altar of choice. In some areas of the country, people of the same sex can marry each other. Statistics seem to indicate that morals of many students in high school are not in compliance with the 10 Commandments. The use of drugs is commonplace.

Am I condemning this situation? No, but I do believe there is a comparison to be made. In the first reading we are told that God sent his messengers to the people of Judah calling for them to repent and follow His commandments. But they didn’t. And what happened? Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem and those who were not killed were carried captive into Babylon.

God then told the Israelites that they would be held captive for 70 long years as punishment for their sins. Seventy years is a long time. What if we lost a war with Mexico and we had to spend 70 years in their land? Or, what if we had a war against the forces of Islam and we lost the war and would not be allowed to practice our religion. That’s what is written in the Koran, the holy book of the Muslims.

Now, before everyone thinks this is a “gloom and doom” homily let’s point out that you all of you here are following the commandment of the Lord … keep Holy the Sabbath Day. I would think you’re probably following all of the Commandments of God.

But what about the rest of our nation? As I listen to the speeches of some of the people who would like to become our next President, it seems they do endorsee abortion, same sex marriage and a few other practices God has condemned.

I often wonder if we really understand what we are doing each Sunday. So, are doing exactly what God has asked us to do. We come here to worship him, we come to renew our belief in Him and we come here to, hopefully, have the strength to live by His commandments when we leave here.

Think about it. We read the readings and the gospel and I’m not sure we recognize that we are living , to a great extent, the way God and Jesus asks us to live. Listen to the words of the gospel.

Jesus, the light, came into the world but people preferred darkness to the light, because their works were evil, For everyone who does evil things hates the light and does not come forward toward the light. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light so that his works can be clearly seen as done in God.

We all left our homes and came to the light of this Mass. I r4ealize some of us might feel. “Why do I go to Mass? I don’t get anything out of it.” Well, you’re wrong. You’re doing exactly what God has asked you to do … you have come to worship Him. As long as we are here, we might as well do just that. Don’t just sit there or kneel there waiting for Mass to end. We’re going to be here through the whole worship time and we really are wasting time if we don’t just think of our God, recognize that He has given us unbounded blessings, has given us food to eat, a great home in which we live and freedom to practice our religion and not be persecuted when we do. Think about Iraq, Iran, China and many other areas of the world whose people don’t have what we have. They don’t have freedom, they don’t have enough food or housing. they don’t have parents who provide the means for them to have a great education. I think of the young people here and compare them to those of your age in other countries of the world. Is there freedom in China, in Iran, in Russia and in many countries in South America and the rest of the world? No, there isn’t. Therefore, I think it is very important for all of us, particularly the young people here, to realize what God has given us, all of us could have been born in other countries nut, for some reason He chose to that we would be here in St. Louis (name of your city) where there is freedom, where not very many people are starving, where we have the opportunity to become successful and live our lives as we choose.

And the most important gift we have been given was contained in the Gospel acclamation this morning.

God so loved the world that He gave his only Son,

so everyone who believes in Him shall have eternal life.

All I can say is, “I’m really glad I came today. I hope you feel the same way.”

Homily # 2

There are two options for the fourth Sunday of Lent. The homilist chose the readings with the Gospel of John, 9: 1-48.

In the gospel of John today, Jesus explains the meaning of the miracle before he performs it (the man was born blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him”). A blind man comes to see the light both physically and spiritually. At the same time, those who claim to see (the Pharisees) are blinding themselves and choosing darkness. Finally, when the man is interrogated, he expresses a deepening perception of who is this Jesus: first, he is a man called Jesus, then he is a prophet from God, and, finally, he is the Son of Man.

There is a well known fact that blind people often are able to compensate for their lack of sight. One or more of the other senses (hearing, touch, smell, taste) becomes acutely sensitive. Blind musicians like George Shering and Ray Charles come quickly to mind as do situations where a blind person makes astonishingly accurate observations of others just by touching them or listening to their voices. Often I have heard a blind person say “I see!” which means “I understand clearly”. We even do this ourselves sometimes – such as when you really want to listen to something you close your eyes and shut out visual distractions (except of course you can’t do this during a sermon or someone might think you were sleeping).

Jesus speaks today to spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness, like physical blindness, often leads to compensations in other areas.

The Pharisees, for example, illustrate an over compensation of blind adherence to the external law. They show how even an entire religion can become so caught up in it’s rites, rituals, canons, laws, rules and regulations that it can become blind to its true purpose of bringing healing and love to humanity. Their final answer to the contradiction the healed blind man brings to their spiritual blindness is that they throw him out – to do anything else would have been the same as admitting their spiritual blindness.

It is this same sense of spiritual blindness that Jesus asks us to examine in our lives today. Ghandi once said about Christians that, while he sees the drops of the water of their baptism on their foreheads, he sees less frequently the love and caring which seemed to him to be at the heart of Jesus’ message. A couple weeks ago we baptized a new baby here. The magic of the baptism is not in the oil or the water – it is in the hearts and souls of the family and the Christian community who support and care for that new young member.

Jesus says to us this morning: “I came into the world so that those who do not see might see”. We are called not to be a people concerned about incense, bells or buildings – in fact, those things carry the risk of blinding us to our real calling. We are called to make the droplets of our baptismal water be seen as real sweat on our foreheads; sweat which comes from working to bring about the kingdom to which our God calls all of us.

Homily # 3

Prayer, fasting and alms-giving are the call words for this Season of Lent.  We have been called to follow the tradition of our church community and join with Christians throughout the world.  For what purpose?  Why do we pray, fast and offer works of charity and generosity?  Our Ash Wednesday readings reminded us that the attitude behind our actions is as important than the outside action.  So why do we do all these special things during this season.

For some background, let us review the scriptures.  They remind us that God has been trying for thousands of years to get our attention.  Through messengers, miracles, healings, and proclamations, God has been trying to convince us that the love that is offered us is eternal, sufficient and a gift.  Do our Lenten actions reflect that belief or are we still trying to earn our way into God’s heart?  Do our attitudes reflect what God has been trying to convince us of?  Has God gotten our attention yet?

A style of Christianity that trumpets perfection and strength will not sell.  It is not the real Good News.  We can all grit our teeth and use our willpower for a while, but in the end we know that we are not perfect and we are not always strong.  We know that any “real” gospel must include our weakness and our sinfulness.  The only true, lasting and eternal conversion of heart that happens in us human beings comes through love not coercion or threat.

The gospel of today calls us to believe and be saved.  Our Lenten Season is a time to check to see if we are still believing in and proclaiming in our lives, that the Good News is real and has set us free.  There is a strong line in the gospel that can teach us the power of love.  The gospel writers says, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”  No matter what the sin, none of us likes to have the light shone on us in the midst of our sin.  We would rather work it out in the dark and come out when we have everything put together well.  We love to appear to have our act together and living the “perfect” life.  We shun the light because many of us experience the shame of those who would judge us because of our sins.  No wonder we stay in the darkness rather than be shamed by the light.  The love that has been offered to us by God for thousands of years invites us into the light, even with our sins, so that we can see God’s face again and remember that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

In light of the gospel, we are called to examine our attitude toward ourselves and others.  As our lives shine light out to others, as we give our example for the world, what kind of light do we shine?  Do we shine a light that shames others because of the things that they do?  Do we dare to have the “sinner” step up and admit what they have been or are doing?  Do we make room in our own lives for our own weakness and sin?

The light we have to offer is that same light that God offers to us through Jesus.  It is the light that he offered the woman caught in adultery, the light offered to Peter and Judas after their betrayal of Jesus, the light offered to Bartimeus as he came down from the tree, and the same light that was offered to those who nailed him to the cross.

The one we lift up is a light for the whole world.  It is a light of freedom and not of shame.  Our acts of prayer, fasting and alms-giving are a light of hope offered to a hungry and thirsty world.

Homily # 4

Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  Lent is a forty day season of fasting, abstinence and penance.  It is a season that is stricter, in this sense, than the rest of the year.  But it is precisely the austerity that typifies Lent that is interrupted today as the Church celebrates “Laetare” Sunday.  “Laetare” is a Latin word that means “Rejoice.“  And it is the first word of the Entrance Antiphon of the Holy Mass that we celebrate today.

This Sunday is more joyful than the rest of the Sundays of Lent because we are celebrating the fact that we are half way along our yearly pilgrimage to Easter Sunday.  But, in reality, good Christians should always feel joyful, even when they are fasting or doing acts of penance.  “The joy of Our Lord is our strength.  Go in Peace.”  That is one of the ways that the dismissal at the end of Mass can be phrased. In these two sentences the true meaning of our faith is summarized and underlined.  The joy that we feel as we recognize that we are faithful followers of the Lord, the joy in recognizing that the Lord wants us to be happy, should strengthen us during the rest of the week.  It should give us the strength we need to carry the crosses that will come up during our daily life.

Today, as I said, the Church celebrates the joy of knowing that we have reached the beginning of the last few weeks of Lent.  To celebrate this event, the Church allows us to place flowers on the altar, something that is not allowed during the rest of the Lenten Season.  The priest and the deacon dress in rose colored vestments, a color that signifies joy better than violet colored vestments, the normal color for Lent.  In this way we do what our Lord always asks us to do, even through the days of penance, we don’t allow sadness and sorrow to rule our lives.  We radiate happiness.

In the Gospel Reading today, Saint John explains to us the true cause of so much sadness and sin in the world.  He tells us that even though Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Light of the World, came to the world, humanity preferred the darkness instead of the light.  Even today, many people are afraid of the light, they turn their backs on God, they sin and act as if God did not exist.  And, of course, these people, since they live spiritually in a dark and sick world, are afraid of the light.  They prefer the darkness.

The Holy Mass is the summit of our faith.  Even so, there are people who say that it does not interest them.  Some even say that it bores them.  The problem is that many of these same people, since they live in darkness, cannot see, cannot understand, that during the Holy Eucharist, Our Lord becomes really present among us.  During the Holy Mass, the Light of the World, shines out again in the darkness to show us the road we should follow towards Him so that we can receive that Light in our souls and in our hearts.

A good Christian should show to the world the light received in the Holy Mass.  The light should shine in him or her so brightly that they should be the image of Christ for others.  In a Christian like this we see the happiness that surges out into the world from a pure heart, from a person who does not fear the Light of Christ, who tries by every means possible to ensure that the light received is transformed into good works that show his or her love for God.

Lent, even though it is a time for austerity, is also a time for authenticity.  We know that there are many people in this world who will try to lure us away from our faith.  Frequently, we have to make sacrifices when we are tempted to exchange our love of God for love of earthly things such as illicit pleasure, ill-gained success or power. These days of Lent place before us a dilemma  We have to choose between the light and darkness, between good and evil, between love of God and love of those earthly things that separate us from the true road to Christ.  If we choose good, if we decide to follow Jesus, sacrificing those other things, we will win out in the long run.  We will realize that all of those other things only end up separating us from God and doing us harm.  Without a doubt, when we change our lives and choose the good, we become better persons.  It could even be possible that when we show others, through our good works, that we live a joyful and pure life completely dedicated to doing good that we will influence family members and maybe even the rest of the community to do the same.

Homily # 5
Did you know personal ads can be traced back as far as 1780? For example a researcher quotes a young man’s ad in 1780 from North Britain who wrote, “I have very little brogue, and describe myself as tall in stature, finely shaped, and well proportioned, have a delicate head of hair, a strong back and broad shoulders,” well in those agriculture days, these must have been very marketable attractions.

Sometimes I think people would like to advertise, if they had the courage to, for God. And the reason why some might do that is because they struggle with the perennial question, “where is God? Where is God in my life?” I think all of us would like to advertise for God sometimes because at times God does seem quite absent. To all such seekers, however, today’s gospel gives us its very famous and oft-quoted passage which, in effect, is a response to our ad for God. What does it say? It says “God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son so that those who believe in him may not perish, but have life everlasting.”

Surely God knew about sin and had already dealt with Cain and Abel, and Sodom and Gomorrah , and David and Bathsheba and all the rest of those wicked people that cot the Bible’s pages. Yet God insists that the world is loveable and that he loved it first, and is here waiting to be unmasked everywhere. The message is that it’s a matter of uncovering and celebrating that presence, that love.

John 3:16

In the city of Chicago , one cold, dark night, a blizzard was setting in. a little boy was selling newspapers on the corner. The people were in and out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he wasn’t trying to sell many papers.

He walked up to a policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you. You see, I sleep in a box around the corner and down the alley and it’s awful cold in there tonight. Sure would like to have a warm place to stay.”

The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, “You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come to the door you just say John 3:16.” So he did.

He walked up the steps and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up and said, “John 3:16 .”

The lady said, “come on in son.” She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace, and she went off.

The boy sat there for awhile and thought to himself: John 3:16 ….I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.

Later, she came back and asked him, “Are you hungry?”

He said, “well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days and I guess I could stand a little bit of food.”

The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more. Then he thought to himself: John 3:16 …boy, I sure don’t understand it but it sure makes a hungry boy full.

She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself: John 3:16 …I sure don’t understand it but it sure does make a dirty boy clean. You know, I’ve never had a real bath in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as the flushed it out.

The lady came in a got him. She took him to a room, tucked him into a big old feather bed, pulled the covers up around his neck, kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he lay in the darkness and looked out the window, at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself: John 3:16… I don’t understand it but it sure makes a tired boy rested.

The next morning, the lady came back up and took him down again to that same table full of food. After he ate, she took him down again to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and picked up a big old bible. She sat down in front of him and looked into his young face.

“Do you understand John 3:16 ?” she asked gently?

He replied, “No ma’am, I don’t. the first time I ever heard it was last night, when the policeman told me to use it.”

She opened the bible to John 3:16 and began to explain to him about Jesus.

Right there, in front of that big old fireplace, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought: John 3:16. I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.

You know, I have to confess I don’t understand it either, how God was willing to send his son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing.

I don’t understand the agony of the Father and every angel in Heaven as they watched Jesus suffer and die. I don’t understand the intense lov3 for Me that kept Jesus on the cross till the end. I don’t understand it, but is sure does make life worth living.

A number of years ago, these two verses, John 3:16 and John 3:17, took on extra-special meaning for many Bible readers. You may recall the episode. It involved our astronaut program.

Space engineers were designing space suits for the command pilot and the lunar module pilot. A part of the design of each space suit was an umbilical cord, consisting of a long flexible tubing. The purpose of the umbilical cord was to supply oxygen to the astronauts when they “walked” in space or passed from one module to another.

The suit receptacle into which the command pilot’s cord fit was called “ 3:16 . the suit receptacle into which the lunar pilots cord fit was called J 3:17.

Designer Frank Denton said he named the two suit receptacles after the two gospel passages after the two gospel passages: John 3:16 and John 3:17 .

His reasoning for doing so went like this: Just as J 3:16 and J 3:17 supply the astronauts with what they need to survive in their journey from one module to another, so John 3:16 and John 3:17 supply us with what we need to survive in our journey from earth to heaven.


Word Alive

God forgives; sin no more


March 20, 2009, 7:15pm

According to a Jewish legend, when God was about to create man, he consulted the angels that stood about his throne.

“Create him not,” said the angel of Justice. “For he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellowman; he will be hard and cruel and dishonest and unrighteous.”

The angel of Truth said, “Create him not for he will be false and deceitful to his brothers and sisters and even to you.”

* * *

Then the angel of Mercy stepped forward and said, “Our heavenly Father, create him, for when he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness, I’ll take him tenderly by the hand and speak loving words to him and then lead him back to you.”

And God, following the counsel of the angel of Mercy, created man.

* * *

The story illustrates Christ’s message in this 4th Sunday of Lent gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave His only son not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3,16).

Think about the relationship of God to the Israelites, His chosen people, as His spouse. Despite their hard-headedness, despite their added “infidelity to infidelity,” God never gave up on them.

* * *

The Old Testament episode about the grumbling Israelites in the desert demonstrates this reality. God punished those “stiff-necked” people by sending poisonous
snakes to bite them.

But then in his mercy, he commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and erect it as a standard. The people who were bitten were cured by turning in faith toward the bronze serpent (read Numbers 21:8).

* * *

Jesus Himself saw in the lifting up of the serpent a type or sign of His own lifting up on the cross. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

Incidentally, fundamentalist Christians accuse Catholics of idol worship when they pray before images and statues.

But here’s a clear instance in the Bible where Yahweh (God) orders a bronze-serpent image to be erected so that those who turn to it in faith would be healed.

* * *

When Christ refers to the serpent episode, He certainly was not condoning idolatry. Catholics do not worship the images as stone, metal or wood but the person they represent or symbolize.

By the way, did you know that the biblical image of the snake coiled around a pole was adopted by the medical profession to symbolize healing?

* * *

Going back to the gospel message, some of us may think that this overbending picture of God depicts him as too soft or weak. With this image, think of corrupt officials, callous hold-uppers, heartless rapists and murderers abusing His goodness.

* * *

The 4th Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” (Rejoice) Sunday. The reason is that for every sinner, even the most depraved, there’s hope.

But there’s a warning. Jesus told the man whom He cured of paralysis, “Don’t sin again, otherwise something worse will happen to you.” (Jn 5:14). Then in the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds (read Matthew 13:24-43) the Lord warns that the “bad grass” (masasamang damo) will, in the end, be bundled up and thrown into the fire (hell).

Hence, the gospel today is both a message of encouragement and a warning.


Your choice

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:06:00 03/22/2009
THE STORY is told about a lady who asked a hunk at the roulette table what’s a good number to bet on. The man said: “Bet on your age.” So she chose to put her bet on number 34. Number 47 won … and the lady fainted.

* * *

In today’s gospel (Jn. 3, 14-21) we are asked to make a choice: to prefer darkness, or to choose the light. In other words, we can choose to be good or to be bad, to tell the truth or to tell a lie, to be happy or to be sad. The choice is ours. God loves us that much, that He gave us all the freedom, even the freedom to choose Him or reject Him.

* * *

If there is one thing I have held on all these years, it is the thought and the firm conviction that I am loved by God, not so much because of me, but in spite of me, and that His love is unconditional, and that He will continue to love me, no matter what. Presumptuous? I believe that it is better to be presumptuous of God’s love than to doubt God’s love. So here I am, all these 54 years of life, still kapal muks (thick-faced) to the Lord, and still kapit tuko (holding on tight) to the Lord.

* * *

I remember a very good confrere who once asked me why I always say “unworthy as I am.” My simple reply to him was that I know that I am really unworthy. He took my answer, with a smile, not quite comprehending it. Years later when we met again, these were his words to me: “Now I know. Now I understand.” My simple response to him was: “Welcome to the human race. Welcome to God’s ‘lost command’.”

* * *

Today is “Laetare” (Rejoice!) Sunday. There’s so much to rejoice at and to be grateful for, really. We have a choice: to celebrate God’s love or to worry about God’s love. Instead of living a grateful life, are you living a life that is focused on disappointments and imperfections? Instead of spending your life rejoicing in God’s grace and mercy, are you burdened by life’s could-have-beens and should-bes?

* * *

By the way, we also have another choice: to respond to God’s love, or to abuse God’s love. It all boils down to humility. Take the road of humility, and it will lead to God’s heart. Take the road of pride, and it will lead to misery, now and in the hereafter.

* * *

I remember hearing the confessions of a dying man who all his life, because of pride—or maybe because of shame—had postponed and even tried to avoid his homecoming to God’s heart. Finally, at his deathbed, he asked for forgiveness and embraced his God. In parting, I held his hand and told him: “Ernesto, God loves you.” With a wink in his eye he said: “I know Father. He has good taste!” Talk about excessive self-esteem till the very end! Actually, that moment reminded me how we all are “spoiled” children of God. Yes, let’s celebrate God’s love.

* * *

Here’s a beautiful prayer: “Sometimes Lord, when I cannot pray, I sit very still with nothing to say. Nevertheless, I know You are there, and I whisper Your Name because I know You care. You know the troubles in my mind. You know my weaknesses and the failures in my life, and ever so often my being unkind. I know that Your Spirit is with me, and that You will never leave nor abandon me.”

* * *

Allow me to share with you an experience of being alone. Last week, I tried para-sailing. It was a 20-minute experience that made me realize a lot of things.

It is a scary feeling as one leaves the security of the boat and one gets lifted up by parachute connected only by a rope. The view is beautiful at the top. But it is very lonely and quiet at the top, with no one to talk to.

It was at that point when fear set in. Then I started worrying about the rope, and the harness, and a thousand other things. But when I started to sing and pray out loud, I experienced His assuring presence and overcame my loneliness and fears, and enjoyed the view again, with Him. If we have God, we are never and can never be alone.

* * *

By the way, those people who are so sanitized now with so much power, wealth and worldly security, remember that these will eventually be taken away from you, and you will have to walk the road alone. At that point, when we go face to face with our Creator, no one, not even our loved ones, can walk the lonely road for us. The message of Lent is clear: “You are dust … repent!” In short: Magbago ka na. Mamamatay ka rin!

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, in your response to your tremendous love, help me to choose light rather than darkness. Amen.


Word Alive

Message Of Hope And Warning


March 16, 2012, 11:11pm

MANILA, Philippines — According to a Jewish legend, when God was about to create man, He consulted the angels that stood about His throne.

“Create him not,” said the angel of Justice. “For he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellowman; he will be cruel and dishonest and unrighteous.”

The angel of Truth said, “Create him not for he will be false and deceitful to his brothers and sisters and even to You.”

* * *

Then the angel of Mercy stepped forward and said, “Our heavenly Father, create him, for when he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness, I’ll take him tenderly by the hand and speak loving words to him and then lead him back to You.”

And God, following the counsel of the angel of Mercy, created man.

* * *

The story illustrates Christ’s message in the gospel of the 4th Sunday of Lent: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:16).

Think about the relationship of God to the Israelites, His chosen people, as His spouse. Despite their hard-headedness, their added “infidelity to infidelity,” God never gave up on them.

* * *

The Old Testament episode in the desert demonstrates this reality. After the exodus from Egypt, returning to Palestine, the Israelites found the way blocked and had to skirt Edom.

The people grumbled against God and Moses about the detour. God punished the people by sending poisonous snakes. But then in His mercy, He commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and erect it as a standard. The people who were bitten were cured by turning in faith toward the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses (read Numbers 21:8).

* * *

Jesus Himself saw in the lifting up of the serpent as a sign of His own lifting up on the cross. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

BY THE WAY, did you know that the medical profession chose the image of the snake coiled around a pole as the symbol of healing?

* * *

Some of us may think that this over-bending image of God depicts Him as too soft or weak. Consider corrupt officials, holduppers, rapists, and murderers abusing His goodness and breaking His commandments.

But that’s the way God loves His creatures. Remember the saying: “A face that only a mother can love”? But God loves even faces that a mother cannot love!

God’s love gives us all the chances to change, to start a new life as long as we are alive.

* * *

The 4th Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” (Rejoice) Sunday. The reason is that even for the most depraved sinner, there is hope.

On the reverse side: Let’s not abuse the kindness of God. In the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds (read Matthew 13:24-43) the Lord warns us that the “bad grass” (masasamang damo) will be bundled up and thrown into the fire (hell).

Hence, the gospel today is both a message of HOPE and a WARNING.



Toward the light

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:30 pm | Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Last week I received this text message from a friend that made me sad and made me smile all at once: “Father Jerry, my mother just passed away. Please pray for the eternal refuse of her soul.”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 3, 14-21), we read the most important line in the New Testament, in the whole Bible, for that matter:  “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.” God does not refuse anyone! God wants everyone to be saved.

* * *

How consoling to know that God has opened the gates of heaven for us mortals. We have access to eternal life. We have a standing invitation to be with Him in eternity. However, our response to this standing invitation is not to just stand around, but to go toward the light. We are to make a choice, i.e., to stay in the darkness, or to live in the light.

* * *

In this Lenten season, let us take a good look at the lives we are living. Are there dark areas in our lives that need healing? Are there relationships that need mending? Are there bad habits that need ending? As we grow older, may we walk toward the light and leave behind the darkness. The more we go toward the light, the more our hearts will be light.

* * *

As a nation, are we a people who have finally seen the light? Have we come to the realization that graft and corruption must really be eradicated and that we have to change our old ways? Shall we allow people to perpetuate or prolong the darkness that has overshadowed our government for the longest time?

* * *

A good question we all should ask ourselves is: Am I an agent of darkness or of light? As we journey on, are we spreading light, and pointing toward the light, or are we the perpetuators of darkness and deeds of darkness?

* * *

Sad to say, the present-day media focus not so much on the positive as on the negative news. It’s about time the media focused less on the darkness around us, and focused on the fireflies that emit inspiring light in the darkest night. There are many bearers of the light. Let us follow them, and let them lead us to the light.

* * *

We pay tribute to the countless people who risk life and limb for truth and justice to prevail. Many of them have been persecuted, received threats, and even met with death. We salute these people who stand for something or someone greater than ourselves. They are agents of the light. Mabuhay kayo!

* * *

On the other hand, there are people who stand only for themselves and for their immediate family (or families), and close friends. What are they doing for our country and for our people? Worse are those who have all the perks and the privileges at the expense of our suffering people. We pray that they may see the light and share their natural, material, social, and political blessings, for the good of the many suffering people around us.

* * *

It’s graduation time again. Congratulations to our graduates! Congratulations, too, to those who helped them graduate. Parents, teachers, take a bow. Let us acknowledge that much of what we are and what we have are a result of not only what we have made of ourselves but also of what others have done and sacrificed for us.

* * *

Speaking of graduations, let us not forget the final graduation in heaven. We hope all pass the exams! The beautiful thing is that there is already a “leakage” as to what questions will be asked. Look up Matthew 25, 31 and the following: “I was hungry, and you fed me; thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes; naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; in prison and you visited me… Whenever you did this for one of the least important of these members of my family, you did it for me.”

* * *

Someone once said that judging people should be like correcting test papers, i.e., no matter how many mistakes, in the end the correct answers will still be the ones that will be counted. We pray, too, that in the end, God’s mercy, more than His justice, will prevail. We trust, surrender, and believe we all will make it to God’s heart there and then.

* * *

I remember Mother Teresa, who beautifully said: “If we stop judging people, we will have more time to love them.”

* * *

Let me end with a story about a man who gave a piece of bread to a blind boy begging on the sidewalk. Upon receiving the bread and a pat on his head, the boy uttered:  “Thank you, sir! Excuse me, sir… Are you Jesus?” The bottom line is that as we journey on, may people feel and see Jesus more in us. Amen.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, constantly lead me toward the light. Amen.


HUMANAP KA NG PANGIT IBIGIN MONG TUNAY: Reflection for 4th Sunday of Lent Year B – March 18, 2012

May isang pari na mahilig biruin ang kanyang mga parokyano lalong-lalo na ang mga nag-aaply ng kasal. Minsan may lumapit sa kanya at nagtanong,”Father, magkano po ang kasal sa inyong parokya?” Sinagot siya ng pari, “Aba, depende yan sa itsura ng mapapangasawa mo.” At dinala ng babae sa kanya ang kanyang gwapong nobyo at sabi ng pari, “Iha, sampung libo ang kasal mo dahil sa may itsura ang nobyo mo!” Pagkatapos ay my nagtanong uli sa kanya, “Fadz (short for father), magkano ang kasal sa simbahan ninyo?” Sumagot uli ang pari, “Aba, depende yan sa itsura ng mapapangasawa mo!” At pilit na hinila ng babae ang kanyang nahihiyang nobyo. Tiningnan siya ng pari mula ulo hanggang paa at ang sabi, “Iha, libre na lang ang kasal mo!” At pabulong na sinabi ng pari sa babae, “Bakit naman siya ang napili mong pakasalan? Napakalayo ng anyo ninyo. ‘Pag nakasal kayo, siya, parang nanalo sa lotto, ikaw naman, nasunugan bahay.” At sinabi ng dalaga, “Father, minahal ko siya; hindi sa kanyang anyo kundi sa kanyang puso! I fell in love not with his face. I fell in love… with his heart!” Kung minsan nga naman ay totoo ang kasabihang “love is blind!” Iba kasi ang pamantayan ng mundo sa pagmamahal. Kaya nga katawa-tawa ang kanta dati ni Andrew E na “Humanap ka ng pangit, ibigin mong tunay!” Ngunit kung ating titingnan ay ito ang ginawa ng Diyos ng ibinigay Niya ang kanyang bugtong na Anak. Humanap Siya ng pangit at inibig Niyang tunay. Naging pangit tayo dahil sa ating mga kasalanan. Ngunit sa kabila nito tayo ay lubos Nya tayong minahal. Ang Kanyang Anak ay nagtangi sa mga taong mababa, inaayawan ng lipunan… mga taong makasalanan. Kaya nga’t sa panahon ng Kuwaresma ay nararapat lang na maunawaan natin ang malaking pagmamahal ng Diyos sa atin at sana ay maging pamantayan din natin ito sa ating pagmamahal sa kapwa. Ang pag-ibig ng Diys ay walang itinatangi. Ang pagmamahal Niya ay walang kundisyon. Sana, tayo rin, pagkatapos nating maranasan ang pagmamahal at pagpapatawad ng Diyos ay magawa rin natin itong maipakita sa ating kapwa. “Mag-ibigan kayo, tulad ng pag-ibig ko sa inyo.” Ito ang kanyang huling habilin bago niya lisanin ang sanlibutan. Ngayong panahon ng Kuwaresma ay turuan natin ang ating sariling magmahal ng tunay. Matuto tayong umunawa, magpatawad at magmahal ng walang kundisyon o hinahanap na kapalit. Katulad ni Hesus, ibigin natin hindi lang ang mga kaibig-ibig kundi ang mga tao ring mahirap nating lapitan. Hanapin natin ang mga “pangit at ibigin nating tunay!”



Jn 3:14-21

THE GOSPEL THIS Sunday leads us to reflect on the significance of Christ’s “lifting up” or self-donation on the Cross. Jesus anticipated his crucifixion and He likens his “lifting up” on the cross to that of Moses’ lifting up of the bronze serpent in the desert. In both instances, LIFE is being signified. On the one hand, when the “poisoned” Israelites looked at the bronze serpent, they did not die, but lived. On the other, Jesus’ self-donation on the cross gives everlasting life to believers. Thus, the cross signifies life, an eternal life.
Let us examine some important points presented in the gospel.

First, there is an emphasis in the gospel on faith. The verb “believe” has been used often in the gospel passage. Jesus said, “ that whoever believes”… or “whoever believes….” For us Christians, faith is an important component in our life, and yet, it is something that people tend to neglect these days. Faith is something that we should nourish through our life since we first receive it at baptism, but unfortunately, this does not actually happen to most people. On the contrary, faith disappears when they grow older. However, for some, their living out of faith is seasonal. It is noticeable in the celebration of the sacraments, like baptism, communion, wedding, and burial. It can also be seen during “Simbang Gabi” and Christmas celebrations, during Ash Wednesday and Holy Week. Outside these seasons, we seldom find an expression of faith. People who have this kind of faith would never reach a mature faith.

Second, there is a strong correlation between faith and eternal life. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him (Son of Man) may have eternal life.” Faith in Jesus leads to salvation. We have been taught that through the cross, Jesus gave us life, an eternal life. This is one important part of our beliefs. He brought us salvation when he was “lifted up” on the cross. But, how appealing is salvation for modern people? In our world full of the so-called “self-made” people, the question of God and salvation becomes insignificant to them. If one thinks of himself as God, because of the resources and power he has, then he could not feel that he is in need of salvation. If a person no longer feels that he is sinning or who does not recognize the reality called sin, then salvation cannot be a personal concern. This could be a sad effect if people do not have anymore faith in Jesus. Salvation is no longer hoped for.

Third, since we have been given life by Jesus through the cross, we must bring this life to the world and to others. It is something imperative, especially now that the world promotes the so-called “culture of death.” There are unending wars in the Middle East, as well as the rampant practice of abortion and euthanasia. We are in a sad and depressing situation brought about by this culture of death. We, Christians, are called to counter this. We need to present an alternative to this situation, which is the culture of life. We need to “uplift” the situation, in other words. We need to lift up the “bronze serpent” in our midst so that more people will live. This new culture finds its basis on God’s love and mercy and for us.

If we do this, we can find the significance of faith in our life. We would realize that indeed faith brings life to this spiritually “dying” world. A few days ago, news had it that the attendance at Masses these days has significantly increased. Analysts attribute the increase of worshipers to the global financial crisis. In these trying times, more people turn to God for help. It is proper, and perhaps, symbolic that this “coming back” to God happens during this season of Lent, the spirit of which is something penitential. We can only hope that these people can renew their faith in God who gives us life.


Don’t abuse God’s love

by Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD
March 13, 2015

There is a beautiful legend in which someone has pictured the “Last Day” in heaven.

On the last day that the gate of heaven is open, everyone is celebrating, dancing and singing, grateful that they have made it.

* * *

Everyone except Jesus. Jesus is standing very quietly in the shadows near the gate. Someone asks him what he is doing, amidst all the celebration. He replies, “I am waiting here for Judas.”

* * *

The Lord offers Judas Iscariot a last chance to turn himself in. Ultimately it’s up for him to use his free will whether to enter or not. The story symbolizes the infinite quality of God’s forgiving love.

* * *

The gospel of this 4th Sunday of Lent teaches: “God so loved the world that He gave his only son not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3,16-17).

* * *

Think about the relationship of God to the Israelites, his Chosen People, as his spouse. Despite their hard-headedness, their added “infidelity to infidelity,” God never gave up on them.

The Old Testament episode in the desert demonstrates this reality. After the exodus from Egypt, returning to Palestine, the Israelites found the way blocked and had to skirt Edom.

* * *

The people grumbled against God and Moses about the detour. God punished the people by sending poisonous snakes. But then in his mercy, he commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and erect it as a standard. The people who were bitten were cured by turning in faith toward the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses (read Numbers 21,8).

* * *

Jesus Himself saw in the lifting up of the serpent as a sign of his own lifting up on the cross. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,” a prefiguration of his healing mankind of sin.

BY THE WAY, did you know that the image of the snake coiled around a pole was chosen by the medical profession as the symbol of healing?

* * *

Some of us may think that this over bending image of God depicts him as too soft or weak. Consider corrupt officials, hold-uppers, rapists and murderers abusing God’s goodness and breaking His commandments.

* * *

But that’s the way God loves His creatures. Remember the saying: “A face that only a mother can love”? But God loves even faces that a mother cannot love!

* * *

God’s love gives us all the chances to change, to start a new life as long as we are alive.

As somebody said: “If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.”

* * *

The 4th Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” (Rejoice) Sunday. The reason is that even for the most depraved sinner, there is hope.

On the reverse side: Let’s not abuse the kindness of God.

* * *

In the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds (read Matthew 13, 24-43) the Lord warns us that the “bad grass” (masamang damo) will be bundled up and thrown into the fire (hell).

Hence, the gospel this Sunday is both a message of HOPE and a WARNING.



2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

Traditionally, the fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday, named after the first word of the opening antiphon of the Mass. The Latin word Laetare (“Rejoice”) is from the book of Isaiah 66:10-11 and is used to set a tone of joyful anticipation of the Easter mystery. During the celebration of the Mass, rose-colored vestments are used, instruments may be played, and flowers may be decorated at the altar.

The readings point to one great theological truth: Only by the grace of God are we all saved! Like the people of Judah, often we choose to do wrong, refuse to listen to God’s messengers and ignore His words (2 Chr 36:16). We also tend to love darkness and do what is not pleasing to God (Jn 3:19). Saint Paul is right: “By nature, we were worthy of punishment like the rest of humankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, revealed His immense love and gave us life with Christ after being dead through our sins” (Eph 2:3).

Saint Paul makes it very clear that salvation is not our own doing. By our own human capacity, we cannot save ourselves. Though quite humbling, it remains a wonderful truth that salvation is something that we receive. It is pure gift! One may forget everything in the Bible except this beautiful part from John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him, the world is to be saved” (Jn 3:16).

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“Two points!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God.”

And St. Peter smiles and says, “Come on in!”

(The story is from an unknown author)

As we continue our Lenten pilgrimage, the Church invites us to reflect more deeply on God’s unconditional love and to cherish it. May we also learn to share such kind of love with others in our community! Posted by Abet Uy


See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

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