Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)
March 10, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.






O God, who through your Word
reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

First Reading 2 CHR 36:14-16, 19-23

All the leading priests and the people were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of the Lord that he had consecrated in Jerusalem. 15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, persistently sent his messengers to them, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; 16 but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy. 17 Therefore the Lord brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, 19 who burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious vessels. 20 The king took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had made up for its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfil seventy years. 22 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfilment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict: “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6.

R/. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

Second Reading EPH 2:4-10

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— for it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come God might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. 9 This is not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 3:16

Gospel JN 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus: 14 “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Catena Nova

So by the obedience, whereby Christ obeyed unto death, hanging on the tree, He undid the old disobedience wrought in the tree. And because He is Himself the Word of God Almighty, who in His invisible form pervades us universally in the whole world, and encompasses both its length and breadth and height and depth - for by God's Word everything is disposed and administered - the Son of God was also crucified in these, imprinted in the form of a cross on the universe; for He had necessarily, in becoming visible, to bring to light the universality of His cross, in order to show openly through His visible form that activity of His: that it is He who makes bright the height, that is, what is in heaven, and holds the deep, which is in the bowels of the earth, and stretches forth and extends the length from East to West, navigating also the Northern parts and the breadth of the South, and calling in all the dispersed from all sides to the knowledge of the Father.  (St. Irenaeus of Lyons)
Although we praise our common Lord for all kinds of reasons, we praise and glorify him above all for the cross. It fills us with awe to see him dying like one accursed. It is this death for people like ourselves that Paul constantly regards as a sign of Christ’s love for us. He passes over everything else that Christ did for our advantage and consolation and dwells incessantly on the cross. The proof of God’s love of us, he says, is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Then in the following sentence he gives us the highest ground for hope: When we were alienated from God we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son; surely now that we are reconciled we can count on being saved by his life. It is this above all that made Paul so proud, so happy, so full of joy and exultation, when he wrote to the Galatians: God forbid that I should boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! (St. John Chrysostom)
Remind yourself that God is Love and that God in God’s love has imprinted God’s very Self on you in the form of your soul; then let God love you by in essence “waking up” to this love (St. Mechthild of Magdeburg).
Mount Calvary is the mount of lovers. All love that takes not its beginning from Our Saviour's Passion is frivolous and dangerous. Unhappy is death without the love of the Saviour, unhappy is love without the death of the Saviour! Love and death are so mingled in the Passion of Our Saviour that we cannot have the one in our heart without the other. Upon Calvary one cannot have life without love, nor love without the death of Our Redeemer. But, except there, all is either eternal death or eternal love: and all Christian wisdom consists in choosing rightly....During this mortal life we must choose eternal love or eternal death, there is no middle choice. O eternal love, my soul desires and makes choice of thee eternally! Ah! come, Holy Spirit and inflame our hearts with thy love! To love or to die! To die and to love! To die to all other love in order to live to Jesus's love, that we may not die eternally, but that, living in thy eternal love, O Saviour of our souls we may eternally sing: Vive Jesus! I love Jesus. Live Jesus whom I love! I love Jesus, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen (St. Francis de Sales).

Christ was tempted in the desert; and if you are to put on his nature, you must go through his Journey, from the Incarnation to the Ascension. And though you are neither able nor expected to be able to do what he did, still you must enter wholly into his Process, and die continually to sin. For Sophia (Wisdom) is wed to the soul only through that quality which springs up in the soul through the death of Christ. Then it flowers as a new plant in Eternity.  (Jacob Boehme)

We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. That is our great act of faith, the way to repay our God love for love; it is the mystery hidden in the Father’s heart, of which Saint Paul speaks, which, at last, we penetrate and our whole soul thrills! When it can believe in this exceeding love which envelops it, we may say of it as was said of Moses, he was unshakable in faith as if he had seen the Invisible (Heb 11:27). It no longer rests in inclinations or feelings; it matters little to the soul whether it feels God or not, whether he sends it joy or suffering: it believes in his love. The more it is tried, the more its faith increases because it passes over all obstacles, as it were, to go rest in the heart of infinite Love who can perform only works of love. So also to this soul wholly awakened in its faith to the Master’s voice can say in intimate secrecy the words…Go in peace, your faith has saved you (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity).


What the story [in Exodus) recognizes is that all of us are going to be bitten—painfully bitten—in this life. Most of us learn that truth fairly quickly just from experience. But, according to the story, it is not the being bitten that we in this imperfect world can do anything about; it is only the how we respond to being bitten that we can control. When we look up, usually we are saved by that very act of faith for it is when we look down and struggle with what is tormenting us that we most often empower it by the very attention we are going to give it. (Phyllis Trickle) 


     You might have noticed a theme developing throughout the Lenten season present in the first reading.  Week after week, through next week, we have been told of various covenants God has made with the human race beginning with the universal one with Noah at the time of the flood.  Long before covenants with particular persons or nations were entered into, the Bible signaled God's interest in humanity as a whole and not only us, but "every living creature…all the birds, tame and wild animals…[and] all living beings."  
     It's a story about a cosmic religion we would do well to remember whenever we are tempted to be unmindful of creation or tribal in our worldview.  Happily, in our own time the rainbow, which served as "a sign of the covenant between [God] and the earth," is recognized universally as a symbol of inclusion and acceptance. 
     Then we moved on to the personal covenant between God and Abraham — "an everlasting covenant" — not only with Abraham but his "descendants after [him]" (Gen 17:7) whose outward sign was circumcision. (I would prefer a rainbow!)  And on the Second Sunday of Lent we heard of the great test of Abraham's obedience after which God renewed the covenant promise such that in Abraham "all the nations of the earth shall find blessing — all this because [he] obeyed [God's] command."  Notice the universal reference to this covenant reminiscent of the one with Noah and his descendants, here with reference especially to the three monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — which all trace their spiritual pedigree to this venerable figure.
     I once visited the Dome of the Rock, the second holiest site in Islam, on the mount where the Jewish temple once stood — the rock being, among other things,  the place where in Muslim belief Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.  After our visit, our guide asked if anyone had a reflection to share.  I expressed a hope that maybe someday that rock could serve to unite, rather than divide, Jews and Muslims, where both traditions could worship, as Jesus would say in Mark's gospel, in "a place of prayer for all nations."  I thought perhaps Christians too might be permitted to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice there as well.  Alas, I thought it would take maybe 500 years or so for such a thing to happen. -- these days perhaps a millennium is more like it.
     Then last week we heard of the covenant made at Mt. Sinai between God and the descendants of Abraham's grandson and Isaac's son, Jacob — the slaves who escaped from Egypt under the leadership of  Moses.  Fidelity to the The Law of Moses, summarized in the Ten Commandments, formed Israel's part of the covenant whereas from God's side, the promise to Abraham of descendants and land was renewed with the solemn affirmation, "I, the LORD, am your God."  
     I must confess, though, how the Book of Exodus troubles me with its emphasis on the land the people were to conquer while displacing those who already lived there, setting the stage for tribal and inter-religious conflicts down to the present time.
     Which, in a way, brings me to today's first reading — the only selection from the Second Book of Chronicles in the Sunday lectionary.   I say, in a way, because the context is the disaster following the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Babylonians and the exile of its leading citizens —  which endured for some 70 years before the Persian king Cyrus who, quite unbelievably, permitted and funded their return, including rebuilding the temple which was completed during the reign of Darius his successor.  
Indeed, these grand stories of human origins, of patriarchs and the Exodus, probably circulated in Babylon by scribes and editors who wove them into a reasonably coherent narrative that gave a displaced people hope and served in many ways as a cipher for the "second Exodus" which restored these captives to the promised land (cf. John Van Seters, The Yahwist: A Historian of Israelite Origins; 2013.)
     And once restored under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah the people solemnly reaffirmed the covenant, confessing their sins and God's fidelity, promising again to observe the Law through a "binding agreement" (Neh 9:38).  Alas, old habits die hard and the reform was not to last and the promised land would be conquered anew by the Greeks and then the Romans.  (By this time in Lent, our own promises might be in need of a renewal! )
     It was Jeremiah, however, who both foresaw the impending calamity of the exile and tirelessly preached a message of repentance to little avail and yet, at the same time — as we will hear next week —  famously predicted coming days when God would make a "new covenant" with the people.  And that will lead us to Holy Week when we celebrate the new and eternal covenant sealed in the Blood of Jesus — not that the previous ones are annulled — but now "in a wonderful way" are fulfilled (Collect).
     For this covenant is a universal one embracing all peoples as with Noah; a covenant based on the obedience of Jesus as with Abraham; and a covenant made with the promised prophet like Moses; a covenant made with the living temple whom God raised up in three days; the covenant empowered by the Holy Spirit in whom all can know God, from the greatest to the least among: For never did God turn away from us, and, though time and again we have broken the covenant, God has bound the human family to himself through Jesus, our Redeemer, with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone. (Cf. Preface; Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I).  Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that we may continue to grow in our relationship with Christ and manifest God’s unbounded love for the human family by our deeds of light.

For the grace of transformation: that God will lead us from the comfort of darkness and selfishness and enable us to live in freedom as children of the light.

For the gift of hope: that we may not despair as we encounter violence, greed, and abuse but by the Holy Spirit courageously give witness to God’s mercy and compassion.

For all who fear drawing close to God: that the Spirit will free their hearts from fear and lead them into an experience of God’s love for them.

For all experiencing persecution: that God will preserve them from harm, give them strength, and help them to witness to God’s love and faithfulness.

For healing of the wounds of racism: that God will raise up all who have been wounded by racism and prejudice and inspire us with new ways to build a community of justice and cooperation.

For all who are suffering: that God's unending love will bring health to the sick, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and jobs to the unemployed.

For a renewed spirit of stewardship: that we may efficiently use the natural resources entrusted to us and work to share them with those who are in need.

O God, rich in mercy,  you so loved the world  that, when we were dead in our sins, you sent your only Son for our deliverance. Lifted up from the earth, he is light and life; exalted upon the cross, he is truth and salvation. Raise us up with Christ and make us rich in good works, that we may walk as children of light  toward the paschal feast of heaven. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (ICEL, 1998)

Offertory Antiphon

Offertory Motet (Tallis)


Salvator mundi,  salva nos,  qui per crucem et sanguinem redemisti nos: auxiliare nobis, te deprecamur, Deus noster.
Savior of the world,  save us, whose cross and blood have redeemed us: help us,  we implore you, our God.

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn (Timothy Rees)

Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.