Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
March 9, 2024 // Perspective

Rejoice! The Resurrection of Christ Is Drawing Near

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Second Book of Chronicles provides this Lenten weekend with its first reading. Chronicles was written about 1,000 years before Jesus. The identity of its author is unknown. As the title of this book implies, its purpose is to record the history of God’s people, but the most important aspect of their history always was religious.

A constant refrain, and source of grief, among the prophets and the devout of ancient Israel was the sinfulness of the people and most particularly that of the kings. God caused or willed no distress or hardship. Rather, by disobeying God, the people themselves upset the order of life, bringing trouble upon themselves.

This reading insists that God again and again has sent messengers to call the people to piety. Inevitably, these messengers met rebuke.

As an example of all this, Babylonia overtook the Holy Land because sin had weakened the Hebrew kingdoms. Then the conquerors took many Hebrews to Babylon where the Hebrews’ lives were miserable.

A pagan king, Cyrus of Persia, freed these sad people when he overcame Babylon. The Hebrews saw Cyrus as an instrument of God’s mercy.

The Epistle to the Ephesians furnishes the second reading. It teaches critical facts about God, the source of all goodness. Salvation is God’s merciful gift. No one deserves it. God lavishly extends it to us as an expression of eternal, divine love.

St. John’s Gospel gives this Liturgy of the Word its final reading. In this reading, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, a prominent and pious Jew from Jerusalem. The Lord refers to an event that occurred during the Exodus when Moses lifted high a serpent. All who looked upon this serpent were rescued from death.

Serpents were important in ancient iconography, although more important among pagans than among Jews. Serpents symbolized eternal life since they shed their hides and seemingly were reborn to new lives.

Jesus predicts being lifted, as Moses lifted the serpent. He was referring to the crucifixion. All who look upon Jesus will have everlasting life.

Even so, Jesus is not a conqueror of people who make their own choices. People must freely choose to follow Jesus by renouncing their own sin.

This is important. God “so loved the world.” God desires life for us and, therefore, sent Jesus to lead us to life, even if, on occasion, we prefer darkness and, indeed, doom ourselves.


This weekend often is called Laetare Sunday, taking its name from the Latin word, laetare, meaning “to rejoice.” This is the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, which for centuries in the Roman Rite was in Latin.

In the liturgies of this weekend, priests have the option of wearing the color rose – a blend of red and gold, not pink – vestments. Rose is not the toning down of a stricter purple of Lent but a signal that Easter is near.

Thus, the presence of gold is critical to understanding the meaning of this liturgical moment. The gold symbolizes the brilliant light of the Resurrection.

At dawn, daylight does not initially appear in a burst of golden sunlight. It comes gradually. The first sign of dawn is a rose-colored sky.

In reminding us that the sunburst of Easter is not far away, this weekend the Church calls us to rejoice, even if we are in the fourth week of Lent. The victory of Christ is approaching. Salvation is near!

On Good Friday, we will remember the crucifixion, but Jesus, crucified, was eternally victorious over death. He is the radiant “Light of the World.”

For humanity, the blessed fact is that anyone who turns to Jesus will have the light of Jesus to guide them through the darkness and fog of earthly existence.

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