Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent

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Laetare Sunday, we call it, today, after the first word of the Introit which has just been sung; Rejoicing Sunday. It is also called Mothering Sunday, since medieval times, when the faithful are invited to re-visit the mother church where they were baptised. Today, it is more generally a celebration of mothers in general and an opportunity to send another card and maybe, even, a flower. Whatever about that, today’s rejoicing is marked by a distinct sobriety of tone. The readings make it feel more like a day of moral accounting. We are sinners, we are reminded; we have sinned and we have suffered the consequences, the first reading tells us. But, following that bald estimate of our situation, the tone changes dramatically, in the Second Reading, with the lapidary statement that, whatever about the past, we have been saved by God’s kind decision to do just that. By God’s grace, sinners though we be, we have been rescued; we have been saved. That is the truth of our situation; and so we have much over which to rejoice, much  for which to be grateful.

The Easter event, inaugurated by Christ’s passion and death, with all its heavy drama and pathos, has given birth and will continue to give birth to new life and a newness of life which will overwhelm and supplant all the suffering and difficulty of this present age; and, God knows, we are all too familiar, today, with suffering and difficulty. We are being reminded, after the past weeks of Lenten effort, that this is the essence of the Christian Good News; in effect, the reason why we bother to be Christian. It is all gift, because God is God. And again, because God is God, it has made sense, in God’s way of thinking and dealing, that this gift of everlasting life should be achieved for us by Jesus Christ’s death, of which the cross over the altar is a constant reminder. The folly of it! The ghastliness of that tortured death! The wonder of it, as the definitive expression of God’s love, of us, of the world, of his universe.

The language of the Gospel which we have heard, just now, speaks repeatedly of light, darkness, truth, belief. Against the backdrop of the assault on truth, across the so-called “free world”, in our day, when we have become familiar with “alternative facts”, QAnon and invented news, many find it problematic to establish any solid basis for truth. How can we be sure of anything? As Pontius Pilate famously asked of Jesus, “What is truth?” Well, as Christians, we  have our criterion for making a decisive answer to that question. Jesus’ own words to those reclining at the table of the Last Supper are, “I am the Truth.” He is the truth about God, who is the touchstone of all truth, the ultimate reality. With God in Jesus, Jesus in God, we have the ultimate foundation of truth; of that, at least, we can be certain sure. And the first certainty, after that, is that God loves us, as He loves His own Son. In expression of that love, God plans no less than that we should share in Jesus’ victory over death, to join him in his everlasting glory. So, yes, we rejoice; there is much for which we have to be joyful; much for which to give thanks, as we do in this celebration of the Eucharist. 

Fr Christopher Dillon OSB

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