Suggestions from Mgr. Jaume González-Agàpito for prayer and individual preparation
Year B, fourth Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2024
2 Chr 36,14-16.19-23; Eph 2, 4-10; Jn 3, 14-21

Cyrus the founder of Persia, instrument of God

  1. God’s ‘doing’ has its own parameters. Today, Christians are victims of a reductionist image of God, the result of the philosophies and theophilosophies that have afflicted us. An “anthropomorphic god” full of passions and anger is not the Christian God. An “unmoved mover” of the Aristotelian type “causa causarum” (as Cicero invoked at the time of his death) was denounced by Benedict XVI, in his encyclical “Deus Charitas est”, as alien to the biblical God.
  2. The Christian God is Love. An omnipotent Love. He even uses outsiders to lovingly carry out his plan. Matthew, Paul, Augustine are some examples of this. Cyrus of Persia too. He will be God’s instrument for the restoration of Israel.
    Whoever is not in the ‘project’ has excluded himself. Scripture calls this the “Judgment of God.” All moved by grace, the fruit of love, as he proclaimed, in St. Peter’s Square on March 25, 2006, Benedict XVI.
  3. In this key the infidelity of Israel and the inexhaustible patience of God become intelligible. The contempt of that grace and of Yahweh’s messengers leads Israel to the disaster of having God on its back: it was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.
  4. But even that immense disaster has, in the love of God, a way out: an earthly savior in King Cyrus. He is the instrument of God’s providence that leads Israel to return to the Promised Land and to the construction of the Temple. We are in the Old Covenant in which the divine project has not reached its full consummation.
  5. But what will happen now if there is, on the part of Israel, the old and the new, a new rejection of the grace of God? We must hope that God’s mercy does not let humanity become extinct in the deepest darkness.
    • Jesus and Nicodemus
  6. This is precisely the search of the pious Nicodemus. Jesus’ response is a disconcerting revelation: “He who does not believe is already judged.” That is the judgment of God: He who despises the merciful love of God judges himself.
  7. God has no interest in judging and condemning man. He is pure Love, to the point of giving his Son to the world out of love. The Son, incarnation of God’s merciful Love, demands the acceptance and loving response of man.
  8. Christ is light in our darkness. Whoever hates the Light prevents the loving grace of God in Christ from being effective in him. The rejection of Jesus the Christ is the great judgment of this world. Christ, on the cross, is the great effective sign of salvation for man. Whoever looks at Him, that is to say – in Johannine language – who believes in Him, is saved. Whoever rejects it condemns himself.
    • The dynamics of God’s love
  9. In the dynamic of God’s merciful love, we must “perform the good works that God has previously prepared for us.” This statement from the “Epistle to the Ephesians” is the complete ‘revelation’ of the “great love” that God has for us sinners: he has raised us up together with Christ and given us the glory of heaven.
  10. Everything is the grace of God’s merciful Love, it is not us who “have” conquered this situation. It is a gift of God’s love and grace.
    But, even in this situation of grace, we will not ‘automatically’ participate in eternal life. We must appropriate this gift that God gives us with our “good works.”
  11. In the Pauline text there is a serious warning, which Saint Augustine strongly underlined, for the Pelagians and also for the numerous followers of Pelagianism today: these good works must not be sought tiresomely and obsessively. God himself “has prepared them for us in advance”: he reveals them to us through our conscience, through revelation, through the Church, through our neighbors.
  12. With this, and not with our obsession to determine, catalogue, inventory, nor with our efforts to convince ourselves of our own holiness, God teaches us what we should do. The execution of these works, prepared in advance by God himself, may cost us, but also, in this, we have to understand that our own salvation, which we also ask for, is precisely a grace that offers us the love of God and For this reason, our actions can be carried out in peace and with gratitude, as the Council of Trent explains in its constitution “De iustificatione”.

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