4th Sunday (Laetare) of Lent Year B ~ March 10, 2024


Once upon a time there was a woman who had been lost in the desert for three whole days without water.  Just as she was about to collapse, she saw what appeared to be a lake just a few hundred yards in front of her.  “Could it be?  Or is it just a mirage?” she thought to herself.

With the last bit of strength she could muster, she staggered toward the lake and quickly learned that her prayers had been answered: it was no mirageit was indeed a large, spring-fed lake full of fresh watermore fresh water than she could ever drink in her lifetime.  Yet while she was literally dying of thirst, she couldnt bring herself to drink the water.  She simply stood by the waters edge and stared down at it. There was a passerby riding on a camel from a nearby desert town who was watching the woman’s bizarre behavior.  He got off his camel, walked up to the thirsty woman and asked, “Why don’t you have a drink, ma’am?”

She looked up at the man with an exhausted, distraught expression across her face and tears welling up in her eyes.  “I am dying of thirst,” she said, “But there is way too much water here in this lake to drink.  No matter what I do, I can’t possibly finish it all.” The passerby smiled, bent down, scooped some water up with his hands, lifted it to the woman’s mouth and said, “Ma’am, your opportunity right now, and as you move forward throughout the rest of your life, is to understand that you don’t have to drink the whole lake to quench your thirst.  You can simply take one sip.  Just one small sip and then another if you choose.  Focus only on the mouthful in front of you, and all your anxiety, and fear about the rest will gradually fade.

We started our Lenten Journey by receiving the ashes on our heads to remind us “repent and believe in the Gospel”. This journey is strengthened by the Sacred Scripture Readings which are helping us to deepen our faith. On First Sunday we reflected on the Temptations of Jesus and beginning of public ministry which was filled with hope, repentance, and mercy. The following Sunday brought us to the point to reflect on the great mystery of Jesus’ Transfiguration and his encounter with two of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah. These two prophets are very much reflection of Jesus’s life because Israel was led out of Egyptian slavery to the promised land by Moses and Elijah was the prophet of fire and taken up to heaven to live. Last Sunday our hearts and minds were opened to understand the Ten Commandments of the Lord, to believe that God loves us and wants us to protect our bodies and be respectful to his commandments. In the Gospel there is a very interesting encounter of Jesus and the people who do business in the Holy Temple. Jesus is upset to see the disrespect of people and he cleansed the Temple of these people. Furthermore, he uses the image of Temple to his own life and prophesied that he will rise on the third day. Off course that made everyone upset. There are two mysteries hidden behind the image of Temple: first is the respect for the physical Temple or the house of God and secondly respect for the human body which St. Paul calls “the Temple of the Holy Spirit”.

As we continue our Lenten journey, this Sunday’s Sacred Scripture Readings are helping us to “Rejoice” as 4th Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” Sunday. Today’s liturgy opens with these words “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, and who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast”. Why to rejoice? How can one rejoice at the suffering or death of someone who is very dear and near? “The reason, as Pope Francis says, is God’s great love for mankind, as today’s Gospel passage tells us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. These words, spoken by Jesus during the encounter with Nicodemus, summarize a theme that lies at the centre of the Christian message: even when the situation seems desperate, God intervenes, offering man salvation and joy. Indeed, God does not remain apart from us, but enters the history of mankind; he “meddles” in our life; he enters, to animate it with his grace and save it”.

A penguin was standing on the water’s edge when he looked up at an eagle soaring high above his head. He watched him with great admiration for a few moments and then looked down at his own flippers with frustration.

The penguin shuffled up to the tallest rock on the beach and flapped his wings vigorously. “That looks so cool, I wish I could fly in the air like an eagle,” he thought to himself before accepting reality, sliding into the sea and swimming away.

The eagle looked down and saw the penguin swimming gracefully in the water.

He watched him with similar admiration for a few moments and looked across at his own wings, wondering if they would work under water. “That looks so cool, I wish I could fly in the water like a penguin,” he thought to himself, before accepting reality, catching another updraft, and effortlessly soaring away into the distance.

Every now and then, I look at the talents and capabilities of others and wish that I was like them. And my suspicion is that many of those I admire have others in their lives whom they envy. And so, it goes on, the endless loop of comparison and inevitable disappointment.

A penguin is a penguin for a reason, and it is remarkably good at what it was created for. An eagle is an eagle for a reason, and it is remarkably good at what it was created for. And you are you for a reason and have the capacity to become remarkably good at what you were created for. The sooner we accept this, the happier and more successful we will be! To believe in the realities our life, always brings strong trust in the Lord to rejoice who died on the Cross for our iniquities and infirmities.

In the words of St. Paul, we are called to believe in the great message of salvation brought by the love of God who gave his only Begotten Son; “So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!  If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.  You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud but stand in awe.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you” (Romans 11:11-17).

From the Mirror of Love by Saint Aelred, abbot “The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ. He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men; he allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace. In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent and did not open his mouth.

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenityFather, forgive themand hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgment; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature, he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord. Further, if he wishes to savor the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love. But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Savior”.

St. Paul once again encourages to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Holy Cross to remind ourselves to work every day to deepen our relationship with the Lord, as he says “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinnersof whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.  To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1Timothy 1:13-17)

St. Leo the Great says “In the preaching of the holy Gospel all should receive a strengthening of their faith. No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed. No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised. When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him”.

In the words of St. Paul, we are encouraged to remember that our hope is set on the living God for those who believe in him. “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end, we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”. (1 Timothy 4:9-10).

Holy Father Pope Francis reflecting on the Gospel says “Brothers and sisters, this is the path, the path to our salvation, our rebirth, and our resurrection: to behold the crucified Jesus. From the heights of the cross, we can view our life and the history of our peoples in a new way. For from the cross of Christ we learn love, not hatred; compassion, not indifference; forgiveness, not vengeance. The outstretched arms of Jesus are the embrace of tender love with which God wishes to embrace us. They show us the fraternal love that we are called to have for one another and for everyone. They show us the way, the Christian way. It is not the way of imposition and force, of power and status; it never brandishes the cross of Christ against our brothers and sisters for whom he gave his life! Jesus’ way, the way of salvation is different: it is the way of a humble gratuitous and universal love, with no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts”.

Yes, for on the wood of the cross Christ removed the venom from the serpent of evil. Being a Christian, then, means living without venom: not biting one another, not complaining, blaming and backbiting, not disseminating evil, not polluting the earth with the sin and distrust that comes from the evil one. Brothers and sisters, we have been reborn from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus. May we be free of the poison of death (cf. Wis 1:14), and pray that by God’s grace we can become ever more fully Christian: joyful witnesses of new life, love and peace. The Lord does not save us with a letter, with a decree, but has already saved us and continues to save us with “his love”; he restores to human beings their “dignity and hope”. For love of us, God through his only begotten Son “became one of us, walked among us”.

At Easter, man is restored to his lost dignity and is consequently “given hope”. This is salvation. The Lord gives us the dignity we have lost. This is the road of salvation, and it is beautiful: love alone makes it so. We are worthy, we are men and women of hope.

It happens, however, that at times “we want to save ourselves and we believe that we can. Maybe we don’t exactly say it, but that’s how we live”. For example, when we think: “I can save myself with money. I am secure, I have some money, there is no problem… I have dignity: the dignity of being rich”. But all that is not enough. Think of the Gospel parable, of that man who had the full granary and said: ‘I will make another, to have more and more, and then I will sleep peacefully”. And the Lord responds: ‘You fool! You will die tonight’. That kind of salvation is wrong, it is temporary, apparent. Lord, I believe. I believe in your love. I believe that your love has saved me. I believe that your love has given me a dignity that I did not have. I believe that your love gives me hope. It is beautiful to believe in love, because it is the truth. It is the truth of our life.

This is a story shared by an unknown author to rejoice and believe in the Lord who always remembers us in our struggles and sufferings.

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted, and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy was sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what else the great master played – only the classic “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are there helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called, and He’ll always be there to love and guide you on to great things.


Do we believe in his unconditional love to rejoice?