4th Sunday of Lent, B - March 18, 2012

In the Old Testament, in response to all of God’s invitations to be His own people, most of the house of Israel fell away from their faith, desiring more the false pleasures of this world.  As our first reading said, “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.”  The anger of God is not a resentful, bitter anger, but it is an anger based on love, a love that wants to give the beloved so much, but all the gifts are refused.  In His Anger, God will eventually allow a heart that has gone away from Him to experience the emptiness of their choice.  This is what happened in the Old Testament.  Because the people of Israel took their relationship with God for granted and freely chose to give themselves instead to the false pleasures of this world, God then took away even the last signs of faith in their land.  “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…”  It was a very sad day as the chosen people lost everything and many were carried off into exile and slavery.  It was the reverse of the Exodus out of Egypt.

The same thing could happen to us as Catholics.  In fact it has happened already in some nations.  For example, Russia used to be one of the most Catholic nations on the planet, filled with rich history and beautiful traditions such as icons and unique Russian chant.  In just a few years they lost everything and are still to this day recovering from the tyranny of communism.  So we must pray, that we may never take our Catholic Faith for granted and forget how blessed we really are to be able to come here freely and in the state of grace receive the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.  “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 our Father wants to give us so much.  He even loved us when we were at our worst as St. Paul writes, “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…”  But if we become indifferent, not really caring, taking our Faith in Christ for granted, we too can risk losing everything, not because God wants to take revenge, but only in His Love will He allow us to feel the emptiness of trying to live without putting Him first in our lives.

God condemns no one, but a person condemns themselves by freely turning away from the very Light that God has given them.  It only makes sense.  If someone is in dark cave and they are offered a flashlight to help them find a way out, if they reject that light they condemn themselves and remain lost in darkness.  That is why we have that sad line in John’s Gospel, “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”

Sin belongs to darkness.  Most grievous sins happen in the dead of night.  The evil one never wants to be exposed, but he wants to remain hidden in the shadows so he can sneak, ensnare and deceive.
In the same way, “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”  In our fallen human nature, we tend to want to hide our infections, bury them deep down, or throw our weaknesses into a dark closet where no one will see them.  In this time of Lent however, we are called to strive to be honest with God, and open the sinful infections to the Light of His Healing Love.  Lent is a time to move from the darkness of our old selves, the sinful selfish self that we want to be burned into ashes and dust, all in order to become a new self, a self full of integrity.

One definition of integrity is being the same person in public as you are when no human person is watching.  A hypocritical person will pretend to be virtuous when in public, while at the same time hiding their addiction to sin.  So Lent is a time to allow that grace of Jesus into our hearts, exposing our hearts to the full light of day in the hope of becoming that true person we were always meant to be in the Father’s Plan of Love. 

When we become our true selves more and more, we lose our fear of showing who we really are because “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”  When we practice our Faith sincerely, and we walk each day truly as children of the Light, not taking the gifts of our Good Father for granted, but really living each day as if it were our last, we will be ready for the light of heaven… we will not be afraid of being judged in the full Light of God’s infinite Love.

So this Lent, let us ask ourselves, is there anything I keep hidden in shame?  Is there anything I have hid from my spouse, or my parents, or my friends?  Is there any activity I would be very embarrassed to have exposed to the light of day?  Then it is to these areas I need to invite the Light of Jesus, asking Him to bring all this out into His merciful light.  For He does not condemn, but only wants to show us how we are deeply loved even in those dark places… for when we receive that Love so full of light, then we begin to trust Jesus and leave those dark places behind and walk joyfully as a child of the Light, a child happy in the Father’s Love.