Liturgy of the Sunday

Share On

Fourth Sunday of Lent

First Reading

2 Chronicles 36,14-16.19-23

Furthermore, all the leaders of Judah, the priests and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple of Yahweh which he himself had consecrated in Jerusalem. Yahweh, God of their ancestors, continuously sent them word through his messengers because he felt sorry for his people and his dwelling, but they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until Yahweh's wrath with his people became so fierce that there was no further remedy. He burned down the temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces to the ground and destroyed everything of value in it. And those who had escaped the sword he deported to Babylon, where they were enslaved by him and his descendants until the rise of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfil Yahweh's prophecy through Jeremiah: Until the country has paid off its Sabbaths, it will lie fallow for all the days of its desolation -- until the seventy years are complete. In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia -- to fulfil the word of Yahweh through Jeremiah -- Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: 'Cyrus king of Persia says this, "Yahweh, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up." '


Psalm 136


O Lord do not forget us.

By the rives of Babylon
there we sat and wept,
remembering Zion;

on the poplars that grew there
we hung up our harps.

For it was there that they asked us,
our captors, for songs
our oppressors, for joy.

'Sing to us,' they said,
'one of Zion's songs.'

O how could we sing
the song of the Lord
on alien soil?

If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not,

if I prize not Jerusalem
above all my joys!

Remember O Lord,
against the sons of Edom
the day of Jerusalem;

when they said : 'Tear it down!
Tear it down to its foundations!'

O Babylon, destroyer,
he is happy who repays you
the ills you brought on us.

He shall seize and shall dash
your children on the rock!

Second Reading

Ephesians 2,4-10

But God, being rich in faithful love, through the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, brought us to life with Christ -- it is through grace that you have been saved- and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus. This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 3,14-21

as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God's only Son. And the judgement is this: though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent his actions from being shown up; but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God.'


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory


We are now more than halfway in our Lenten path, and the liturgy of the Church, interrupting the austerity of this time, invites us to rejoice. Even the colour of the liturgical vestments is milder, from purple becoming pink in order to underline this moment of gladness. In the midst of our Lenten journey, the exhortation to rejoice; the reason being that Easter, the victory of good over evil and of life over death is approaching. This is the true announcement of joy that the liturgy brings to us. Objective reasons that show the permanence of evil are not lacking and yet, it is indispensable to hope in a world different from what we now live in. The victory of Easter, that defeats evil and sin, must illumine everything and everywhere, especially in those peoples tormented by war and violence, as well as among the poor who live in our cities. It is urgent to give back hope where an atmosphere of violence and aggressiveness prevails. Consumerist men and women, forced to live in a continuous race to consume and satisfy any desire, are overwhelmed by the unstoppable spiral of love for oneself that is at the root of all violence. The need to find a religious and ethical dimension that may break this vicious circle and give meaning to life is more and more urgent, not only for personal salvation, but also for the entire society.
The Gospel of John reaffirms that the answer to the question about the meaning of life is Jesus who died and rose. Even Nicodemus heard the same answer with the reference to the episode of the snake lifted up by Moses in the desert so that the snake saved the life of the Israelites from snakes' bites: "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." The Book of Wisdom had already intuited that episode as a sign of salvation and God's love by singing about the bronze snake and defining it as a symbol of deliverance to remind them of your law's command. "For the one who turned towards it was saved, not by the thing that was beheld, but by you, the Saviour of all" (Wis 16:6-7). The snake lifted on the staff is for John the symbol of Christ's cross "lifted up" in the midst of humanity. For the evangelist, Jesus "lifted up" is not an image that should cause commiseration or compassion: the cross is source of life; a generous and borderless source that is free and abundant: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, - continues the evangelist - so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
Anyone who is affected by the poisonous bites of snakes today should simply turn his or her eyes to the "lifted" man and will find healing. Jesus himself said later: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself" (Jn 12:32). Salvation, as well as the meaning of life, does not come from us or from our human traditions. Salvation is given to us as the apostle Paul reminds us: "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (2:4-5). The reason for "rejoicing" to which the liturgy of this Sunday calls us to return is that we can rejoice as the prodigal son who, upon returning home, discovers that the love of the Father is vastly greater than his sin.