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

On this Laetare Sunday the Scriptures presents us with two vey different kinds of journeys. In the text from the 2nd Book of Chronicles we meet a whole nation on a journey while the text from St John’s Gosepl tells the story of one man on a very personal journey.

The details given of the people in today’s first reading was like reading front page news reports from the devastating situations in so many parts of our world today. Maybe a line from this Sunday’s Gospel best describes how the people of this nation lived. They “loved darkness, rather than light because their deeds were evil”. They lived in the darkness of infidelity, of atrocities against innocent people, of evil deeds and rejection of God’s messengers.

Despite the darkness they chose for themselves, God who wants all people to be saved did not abandon them. This is the same God whom we meet on our own Lenten journey, the loving God who never gives up on us. For the Isreaelites lost in evil deeds God chose Cyrus, King of Persia and gave him a very challenging two-fold mision. He was to rebuild the exiled people’s place of worship, their temple in Jerusalem and then bring them back from Babylon to their own land.

God was calling them home, home to their own land and home to himself. St. Paul will remind us in the letter to the Ephesians that it was God’s gift and that alone which saved them. We can only imagine the joy of the Israelites as their lives were utterly transformed by God’s faithful love for them. We can well appreciate why this Sunday is called Laetare Sunday.

In the Gospel of John we meet Nicodemus, who is also on a journey. His is a very personal journey. He simply wants to get to know Jesus. Jesus responds to his need and fully engages with him through conversation, that is clearly respectful, utterly transparent and challenging, Nicodemus is led to a deep understanding of who Jesus is and the extraordinary mission given to him by God so “that all might be saved”. For Nicodemus this too was a transformative experience and we know from John’s Gospel Nicodemus stayed close to Jesus right up to the time of his passion and death. The challenge to Nicodemus and to all of us is to believe.

From the stories presented to us on this Laetare Sunday it is clear that it is not by our own merits we are saved, but by God’s grace. The clue to why that is so, lies in St. Paul’s final words to the Ephesians in today’s reading: We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Perhaps this Sunday’s liturgy is inviting us to reflect on our own life’s journey, to rejoice in it, be grateful for its blessings and embrace its challenges.

Caitríona Gorman, OP