Bible Reflection (9 March 2024)

4th Sunday of Lent Year B

2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

This Lent, let me prepare my heart for conversion.

My brothers and sisters, what is bothering you? This might seem like a strange question to ask out of the blue. However, if we pause for a moment and reflect on our life honestly and truthfully, it is not such a strange question after all. Indeed, for all of us – without exceptions – there is something in our life that bothers us. Behind the facade of happiness, behind the facade of piousness in our Lenten observations, we are not at peace. For some of us, it may be a broken relationship with a loved one. It may be regrets from a past wrong. It may be the harbouring of vengeance and unforgiveness towards someone who hurt us. It may be jealousy towards a family member or a peer. Whatever it is, the negativity is eating away at us, robbing us of inner peace. In truth, it is a spiritual ailment. But what is the source of this spiritual ailment? How can we heal from it? For until we heal, we will not experience peace.

The truth is, whatever it is that is bothering me, it is bothering me because I am unable to let it go. And the reason I am unable to let it go is because I am unable to acknowledge that I am the one that is not letting it go. Why? Perhaps I think I have done nothing wrong in a relationship that turned sour. Perhaps I am unable to forgive someone. Perhaps I am unable to forgive myself. Perhaps I feel that somehow when someone is doing better than me and I am jealous, the problem is with them, not with me. My brothers and sisters, what we are feeling is the effect of sins – not other people’s – but our sins. Indeed, the lack of peace that we experience is the result of the devil having a stranglehold of our hearts on account of our sins.

Last week, we read the story of how Jesus cleansed the temple of all its vices. We reflected on how that temple in Jn 2 is in fact us, for we are the temples of God (1 Cor 3:16). And as long as we allow our vices and our sins to occupy the temple, Jesus cannot enter with the peace He brought for us with His life. But in spite of our rejection of Him, Jesus never stopped trying. He keeps reaching out to us, hoping that we will accept His love and be healed. In the First Reading this week, we read how, by their sins, the people have been unfaithful to God (verse 14). God repeatedly attempted to reach out to them and convert their hearts but the people kept rejecting Him by rejecting all of God’s prophets (verse 15-16). And so, the sins of the people finally caught up with them. The kingdom of Judah was plundered by the Babylonians and many were taken into exile to Babylon. (verse 19-20) They suffered under Babylonian rule for 70 years until once again, God showed His mercy. God stirred the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to let the people return to their homeland. We see this cycle repeated often, in the Bible and perhaps also in our lives. Because of their sins and unrepentance, the people suffered greatly. Then they cried out to God in repentance and God delivered them from their woes.

So, my brothers and sisters, if our sins are robbing us of our peace, do not make the same mistake as the people of Judah. Let us heed Jesus’ warning in the Gospel this week, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (verse 19) But alas, there are many who continue to reject God. They refuse to acknowledge the evil that is in their lives. They refuse to even accept that they need a saviour. Indeed, as Jesus succinctly observed in this week’s Gospel, “For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.” (verse 20) So we ask: Is Jesus talking about me? We ask: What is the sin by which the devil is having a stranglehold on my soul? Is it my pride? Is it my anger? Is it my greed? Is it my envy? Is it my unforgiveness? As St Paul explained in the Second Reading, in the present age, God has shown the same mercy through Jesus Christ. God loves us. so much so that He sacrifice His own Son in order to move our hearts, that “even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (verse 5).

But it is not as if we deserve this love and mercy of our own merits. St Paul said in the Second Reading, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (verse 8-9) Or, in the words of our Lord Himself in the Gospel this week, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (verse 16-17) Indeed, it is purely the mercy of God that He adopts us as His “children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17).

My brothers and sisters, this is what our Lenten journey is for. It is to awaken our hearts for conversion. This Lent, let us forgo our pride and come to Jesus. Let us be “those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (verse 21) Peace be with you.