Sunday Sermon for March 15, 2015, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B

Readings: 2Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21
In the second reading today St. Paul reminds us that God is rich in mercy. For this we are all most grateful because without that mercy we would all be headed to a very hot eternity. Sometimes, however, we get impatient with God’s patience and demonstrate that our mercy is miserably less than His. It is the typical human double standard: one standard for me and another for someone else.

Coupled with the mercy of God is His infinite love for us. God is our Father Who loves us infinitely more that any earthly parent loves their children. Parents tend to be merciful toward their own children, they are forgiving of them and they are usually willing to restore their children to the good graces of the family. When we are tempted to condemn someone, perhaps we just need to think about parents and children, multiply that by infinity and apply it to God.

That said, as a good parent, God will step in and mete out disciple when necessary. Many of us probably thought it was necessary a long time ago. But we see the pattern in the way the Lord works. The first reading tells us that the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity. We are told of God’s multiple attempts to bring the people back. While we are not given the time frame, it spans several generations. When the people refuse to repent, God allows everything to be destroyed; then He lays a new foundation and begins again.

Over the past couple of hundred years God had repeatedly sent His Mother to call us back. In the Divine Mercy messages, He came Himself to demonstrate His compassion for us. Even with all of this, we still have infidelity being added to infidelity. It seems that we are more interested in entertaining the people and getting their money than we are in loving, trusting, and worshiping God. When this is happening all around us it is easy to either get angry or to waffle and conform.

Neither of these is the proper response. We have to pray for others and we have to extend the same kind of love and mercy our Lord extends to these people. Among these folks are many who are truly innocent and do not know any better. There are also some who are malicious in what they are doing. It is fine to point out and even condemn the errors, but we need to be careful not to condemn the person.

It is imperative for us to begin practicing this kind of mercy because it is what our Lord commanded us to do. He also told us that if we want mercy, we have to practice mercy. When we see the pattern of how our Lord has worked in the past, we have to assume that that is how He will do things in the future. This being the case, since the infidelities have only gotten worse and we are not heeding the voices of our Lord and our Lady, we have to accept the fact that some very horrible things may soon be coming to the Church.

By horrible I mean the way we would interpret them on the natural level. Just as God allowed the enemies of Israel to destroy the walls of Jerusalem and to burn the Temple, so He may well allow the enemies of the Church a certain amount of latitude as a means of purifying the Church. If this happens, no one can sit back and laugh saying that “they” deserve it. So do we!

There is a lot that has been done in darkness; all of that will have to be exposed in the light. This purification will be awful, but when it is finished, everything will be beautiful. For those with faith, the grace of God will be present to help us with good works, as St. Paul tells us. We will have to practice charity toward everyone. Our faith will be tested; only those who are firmly rooted in Christ will make it. By “firmly rooted in Christ” I mean allowing our faith to be expressed in the love and mercy of our Lord. This is what it means to live the truth and come into the light.

Jesus said that it will be clear to everyone that the works of those who live the truth and come to the light are done by God. Only by His grace can we remain faithful; only by His grace will we be able to be charitable. We need to pray for this grace and we need to be putting it into practice now. Practice mercy and charity now so that the truth of your works will be seen clearly when God exposes everything in the light.

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