The first reading for this Sunday is from the Book of Chronicles. It is, in fact, the very end of the Deuteronomic Corpus or history books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The chronicler documents the beginning of the Babylonian captivity and blames it on the fact the priests and people of Israel have forsaken the covenant that God made with them on Mt. Sinai. This kind of thinking exemplifies the theology of reciprocity that characterizes much of the Deuteronomic Corpus.
The redactor of the Scriptures adds the first three verses of the Book of Ezra to the original conclusion so that the history of Israel will not end on a negative note. Citing the edict of Cyrus, the chronicler reports that God’s mercy will triumph and lead the people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and to reestablish Israel.
St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians that God’s mercy is a free gift given to us while we were still guilty of our transgressions. Once again we hear the familiar claim of St. Paul that we are saved by our faith and that our good works are nothing more than our grateful response to that free gift.
St. John’s Gospel once again centers our attention on the primacy of faith in Jesus to gain the gift of our salvation. Half way through our Lenten journey, we are reminded that we do not fast, pray and give alms in order to insure our salvation. Rather, John takes up Paul’s claim and emphasizes that it is our faith, our belief in Jesus, which has kept us from condemnation. As I have written recently, John’s Gospel is all about faith, all about coming to believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. That faith will lead us to lives that are lived with Jesus, the Light of the World.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator