Sunday Sermon for March 10, 2024, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B

Readings: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

In the second reading today, St. Paul extols the richness of God’s mercy, even to the point that when we were dead in our transgressions, God raised us to life in Christ Jesus.  Our being raised up is not merely a matter of getting us back on our feet after we have fallen down, but God has raised us up with Jesus and seated us with our Lord in the heavens.  Obviously, none of this was anything we deserved nor did we do any of it on our own.  In fact, the only thing we can say is that, with God’s grace, we accepted and cooperated with God in His work of the salvation and redemption of our souls.

This last point is of the greatest importance in our present situation with the Church and with the world.  The Church was founded to continue the work of Jesus by offering His supreme sacrifice in the Mass and, thereby, to bring the grace of salvation to people in every place and every generation.  With this in mind, one would naturally think that those in the Church, especially within the hierarchy, would easily recognize the immense privilege they have been given by God Who called them to this work.  Because this is God’s work and the highest privilege a human person can receive, there should be no problem preserving the integrity of the faith and maintaining the proper reverence and decorum in the offering of the supreme sacrifice.

Remember, the Jewish people were also given a similar privilege, but we are told in the first reading that the princes, the people, and the priests added infidelity to infidelity and even practiced the abominations of the nations around them, thus polluting the temple and altar of the Lord.  When God sent prophets to call the people back from their madness, they rejected the Word of the Lord and mocked and scoffed at the prophets.

In the fullness of time, God sent His only Son because He loved the world so much.  God has given us the means to salvation and eternal life through His Son Who was lifted up, like the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.  But Jesus Himself told us in the Gospel reading that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil.  In other words, just as the Jewish people rejected the mercy of God offered to them through the prophets, now many will reject His mercy offered through the Son.

This makes sense when we speak of people who are worldly and those who prefer sin.  After all, we know it is impossible for anyone in the state of mortal sin to think clearly.  So, if someone is steeped in sin, his perception of everything else will be skewed.  In such a case, we are not surprised when these people reject our Lord and scoff at work of the Church.

If we look back at what we saw in the first reading, it is not just the politicians who are corrupt, it is also the people and the priests.  This seems almost unthinkable.  But consider what we have been witnessing over the past decades.  There is the seemingly endless line of liturgical abuses that have been foisted on the people.  The lack reverence for anything sacred is pervasive, especially regarding the Mass and the Holy Eucharist.  Recall the disgusting situation of the abuse of minors by clergy and the systematic coverup by the Bishops.  Then remember the Pachamama abomination that took place right in the Vatican.  Yes, even the priests have added infidelity to infidelity and practiced the abominations of the pagans.

I find it interesting, as we see in the first reading, that God raised up a pagan, who knew nothing of God or the Chosen People, and charged him with the rebuilding of the Temple.  Cyrus gave the Jewish people the opportunity to return to their own land and to share in the privilege of rebuilding the House of God.  Sadly, most of them chose not to return, but preferred to remain as slaves in a foreign land.  It was not to a Jewish king or to a Jewish High Priest that this command was given, but to someone from the outside who would actually demonstrate proper reverence and respect for and obedience to the Lord.

This should give all of us, priests and people alike, the impetus to look at our own dispositions toward the things of the Lord, and toward God Himself.  Have we gone along with the foolishness?  Have we waned in our reverence?  Are we bringing the world into the Church?  Will we receive God’s mercy, reject the works of darkness, live the truth, come to the Light, and be saved?

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit