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Sunday, 3/14/2021, Fourth Sunday of Lent

History, Prophecy & Message

First Reading Commentary: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Today’s reading from Chronicles is a brief snapshot of the history of the Israelites from about 900 BC to about 500 BC. This is the time of the Divided Kingdom followed by the Exile of the Israelites from Judah ending with the time that Cyrus became the king of Persia. But it is more than just history. Like so many events which take place in the Old Testament, it is history which is repeated over and over again. It is also a prophecy which Jesus would warn the Jews about later.

Some people consider history to be a boring subject but studying history gives us the opportunity to look back and learn from what we have done good, and the mistakes that we have made as a people. So, when Jesus delivered the Parable of the Tenants, Matthew 21:33-46, and asked the people if they had ever read Scripture, He was giving a history lesson, but He was also trying to get the people to learn from the mistakes of the Israelites. Jesus wanted the Jews to see that they were repeating the same mistakes.

Unfortunately, there were those who did not learn anything. Namely, the Pharisees who Jesus denounced and again with the same history of the Israelites in today’s reading in mind said to the Pharisees, “I send you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth.”

Just as the Israelites mocked the messengers of God and scoffed the prophets despising all of the warnings, the Jews under the influence of the Pharisees were doing the same thing to Jesus. In fact, when Jesus delivered His parable, the Pharisees were already plotting on how they could kill Jesus.

Seventy years the Israelites would be away from Judah while in exile in Babylon. It was when Cyrus became king of Persia that the LORD allowed the Israelites to return. And only then, because the LORD inspired Cyrus and used the Persian king to carry out His Will so that the Israelites could be with their God in Judah.

With His parable of the Tenants and denunciation of the Pharisees; Jesus prophesized, that the very same thing that happened to the Israelites; was about to happen to non-believing Jews and anyone else who persecuted Gods prophets and messengers. But this time, there would be a twist.

All of us are in exile and we seek to return to our true home in heaven. Jesus appointed the Apostles as the outsiders who would replace the Pharisees and deliver the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus was the one who was persecuted and He would offer up His own life to take away the sins of the world and then, Jesus, would Resurrect in three days thereby defeating death. All of this would pave the way for all of us so that we could eventually get home to the Promised Land.

But there is another powerful message for us in Chronicles today. By using King Cyrus, God demonstrates yet again, that He can and will use anyone who agrees to carry out His Will. How? Think about it: Cyrus was a Persian king—not an Israelite.

Yes, God can and will use anyone and, why shouldn’t He? After all, no matter where we come from, we are all God’s children and God does not give us any more than we can handle. All we have to do is agree and He will take care of the rest. 

God’s Love and Grace Are Free

Second Reading Commentary: Ephesians 2:4-10

No matter how bad our children may fall because of their mistakes and in spite of all of their wrong doings, they are still our children and we still love them. We are all God’s children created by God and in spite of our many sins, no matter how serious, God still loves us.

We do nothing and in fact there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s love or to earn God’s grace. God’s love and grace are given to us freely. We cannot buy it and we do not deserve it. Just the same, God’s love and grace belong to us and cannot be taken away from us even though we may be dead in sin.

This is Paul’s message today. The only way that we can fail to benefit from God’s love and grace is to not love God and to have no faith in God. That will cause us to not live according to His Will. Otherwise, all we have to do is ask God for His grace and with His love, it will be given to us. It’s that simple.

For God So Loved the World

Gospel Commentary: John 3:14-21

In today’s gospel, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus who was one of the few Pharisees that listened to Jesus. The biggest problem with the Pharisees was their self-righteous pride. But Nicodemus put his pride behind him. In fact, Nicodemus stood up for Jesus after He was arrested and then assisted in the burial of Jesus and he is a canonized saint. His feast day is August 31st which is also the feast day for St. Joseph of Arimathea who went to Pilot for Jesus’ body and provided the tomb for Jesus’ burial.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Here Jesus proclaimed that the raising of the serpent on the pole by Moses in Numbers 21 was a precursor to His own cross. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that it was predestined for Him to be crucified for man’s salvation. As a Pharisee and a scholar of Scripture, Nicodemus must have immediately understood exactly what Jesus meant. He had to know that Jesus was taking the sins of man to the cross just as the sins of the Israelites went to the pole with the serpent.

Why did Jesus confide in Nicodemus this way, mentioning the serpent on the pole? Why did He not confide in the disciples? Jesus did tell the disciples on numerous occasions that the Son of Man would die and be raised on the third day. Even later at the Last Supper, Jesus told them. But they did not get it until after Jesus was arrested in the garden and then they all fled except for John. Sometimes, like the disciples, we hear the Word but do not truly listen. Sometimes we do listen to the Word but fail to embrace it. Jesus knew that Nicodemus would listen, immediately understand what was being said and embrace it. My point is that Nicodemus, the Pharisee, is one of many people who prove that Jesus will reach out to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen to Him and follow Him. 

Nicodemus knew who Christ was. He knew that the one who the Jews were waiting for, with all of the glamour and ritz expected of a great king was not the Messiah at all. Instead, the Messiah was a Savior. Not just any savior but the Savior who would sacrifice Himself for the salvation of man to the glory of God the Father. Nicodemus also understood that salvation meant the fulfillment of the promise to a new life in the Kingdom of heaven.

Nicodemus knew and understood what John would write in this Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so he who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John also tells us that God did not send the Son to condemn but to save the world through the life of His Son. There is no greater love and this is why the sight of a crucifix should bring us joy for which we should be grateful beyond mention. Amen.

Reading 1          2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

In those days, 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.

Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place.
But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed
that there was no remedy.
Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects.
Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power.
All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Responsorial Psalm           Psalm 137:1-6

R. (6ab) Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land we hung up our harps.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

For there our captors asked of us the lyrics of our songs, And our despoilers urged us to be joyous: “Sing for us the songs of Zion!”
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

How could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten!
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, If I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

Reading 2          Ephisians 2:4-10

Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —, raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.

Verse Before the Gospel          John 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

Gospel          John 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

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.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Wear the mask!
Wash your hands!
Maintain social distancing!
Pray for our leadership!

Get the vaccine!

Saint of the Day

Saint Maximilian
(274 – 3/12/295)

The LORD used King Cyrus of Persia who was not an Israelite to restore Judah.

St. Paul reminds us that we do not earn God's love and grace. We cannot buy God's love and grace. It has been there since the moment of creation, is eternal and is for everyone that wants it.

Jesus revealed many things to Nicodemus who was one of the few Pharisees who listened to Jesus and belived in him.

Jesus told Nicodemus that the serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert, Numbers 21:4-9, was a precursor to His own cross.

Other Saints This Week

St. Louise de Marillac
(8/12/1591 - 3/15/1660)
Patron Saint of:
Social workers

Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer
(12/28/1751 – 3/15/1820)

St. Patrick

Patron Saint of: Engineers,
Ireland & Nigeria

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
(c.315 - 3/18/386)

St Joseph Husband of Mary
Patron Saint of: Belgium,
Canada, Carpenters, China,
Fathers, Happy death, Peru,
Russia, Social Justice,
Travelers, Universal Church,
Vietnam & Workers

Saint Salvator of Hortia
(1520 – March 18, 1567)

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