4th Sunday of Lent – B

II CHR 36:14-16, 19-23; EPH 2:4-10; JN 3:

A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and 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, and loved her deep in my heart.” “That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth two points!” “Only two points?” the man says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithes and service.” “Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.” “One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and also worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.” “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” St. Peter says. “Two points!?!!” Exasperated, the man cries, “At this rate, the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God.” ‘Bingo! 100 points ! Come on in!’

In the second reading today St. Paul tells us: “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…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.”

Dear friends! The history of Israel was largely a history of chaos. The Jews suffered a collapse at the hands of a foreign power, were deported to exile and “by the streams of Babylon they sat and wept” (Ps137). However, just when it seemed, as if all were over for them, King Cyrus of Persia, inspired by God, not only released them from exile but helped them rebuild their Temple (2 Chron 36:20-23). Thus, God’s mercy overcame his own wrath, drawing his people, through their chaotic history closer to himself.

The chaotic history of Israel repeated itself in the life of Jesus. Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up. The chaos of the cross became the ultimate chaos in human history, because on it, goodness itself was crucified as a common criminal. But once again, God drew life out of that bleeding cross, so that, it was by the cross we were all saved, “when we were dead in sin”(Eph 2:5); and what a glorious and universal salvation that was! “The Son of Mas was lifted up on the cross, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn 3:14-15).

This means that the history of the chaos of the cross is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood. We have our own chaotic moments in life but through them all, God intends to bring us to life and to make us truly “his handiwork, created to lead the life of good deeds” (Eph 2:10).

St. Francis de Sales tells what we can do when we face the chaotic moments in our lives. He tells, “Just as tightrope walkers always carry a pole to counterbalance the body in the various movements they make on a dangerous plank, so must you also firmly hold in your hand the holy Cross of our Lord so as to walk with confidence amid the perils that the variety of encounters and conversations can cause to your affections. In this way, all of your movements will be balanced or counterbalanced by the unique and very lovable will of the One to whom you have vowed your whole body and your whole heart”.

God’s mercy is boundless; in times of crisis, God will help us to find a way to survive; that when we face difficulties, he will help us to devise ways to overcome them; that, when tragedies like death, sickness, fire or flood devastate our homes, he will help to rebuild what we have lost; that when some of our precious dreams are destroyed by a mistake, he will inspire us to start over again; that there is always hope even for a family where all love between the members seems to have died and that there is always the hope for a better future for people who suffer under severe economic and social conditions. Yes, dear friends! Order will always emerge from chaos; new life will always spring from the Cross. This is our faith.

But this faith is a gift from God, not given to us on a plate, but planted within us like a seed which must grow. It will grow not when we grow more successful and wealthier in life but when we stand at the foot of the Cross and prayerfully reflect upon the chaos of our life. For it is during such prayer and reflection that our faith will deepen, to the extent that even death will appear not as a going down but as a going up; not a crumbling into dust but a skyward sweep.

God because of his love for us, has set us free through his Son Jesus who suffered and died for us on the cross. Hold on to Jesus; he will lift you up during your chaotic situation.

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