Going Back up to Jerusalem
(4th Sunday of Lent: 2 Chronicles 36:14-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)
Cyrus, the King of Persia, respected the cultures and religions of the peoples under his rule. But he must have received some sort of revelation from the God of Israel, for he wrote, “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord [he uses the name YHWH], the God of heaven, has given to me.”
He authorizes the Jewish exiles throughout his vast kingdom to return, that is, to go up to Jerusalem. Today’s Psalm reflects the time of exile, and shows how precious Jerusalem was to God’s people.
Going back up to Jerusalem is a wonderfully apt image of Lent. Going implies a goal. Going back means conversion. Going up suggests struggle. Lent is all of these.
Let us begin with the notion of struggle. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is free will, which we rightly defend for ourselves and others. But St. Paul reminds us today that we are God’s handiwork, “created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Accommodating our will to the divine will comes at a certain cost.
Returning, in the language of Lent, is a turning back to our Savior. A single example from Scripture will serve: “I have brushed away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).
The goal, finally, is not a place, or a work. It is the time—long ago or recent—when we were most aware of the truth enunciated in today’s Gospel: “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.” Rediscovering this for ourselves, would we not want everybody in our life to know this?
The message of La Salette contains all these elements. Some of it is hard to understand and accept. It is a call to turn back to God. It proposes a general goal, and a more specific one as well.
As La Salette Laity, Sisters and Missionaries, might we not find the “good work that God has prepared for us” in Mary’s words: “Make This Message Known”?
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.