4th Sunday of Lent
A Journey from Exile to Freedom!
“The Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson, is one of the best-known religious poems in the English language. The poem tells the story of a human soul who tries to flee from God, as it thinks that it will lose its freedom in the company of God. This is the story of Francis’s own life. As a boy, he intended to become a priest. But the laziness of his brilliant son prompted his father to enroll young Francis in a medical school. There he became addicted to opium that almost wrecked his life. He fled to a slum and started earning a living by shining shoes, selling matches, and holding horses. In 1887 Francis sent some poems and an essay to Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, the editor of a Catholic literary magazine called Merry England. The editor recognized the genius behind these works and published them in April 1888. Then Wilfrid went in search of the poet. He arranged accommodation for Francis, introduced him to other poets, and helped him realize God’s love and plan. The theme of the poem is how Francis tried to run away from God, how God “hunted” him, how Divine love caught up with him.
Dear brothers and sisters, God, in His Infinite love, will pursue our souls to the ends of the earth and beyond. Today’s Gospel, according to John (3:14-21), tells us how a perfect God sent His perfect Son to save an imperfect world, manifesting the breadth and depth, height and strength of the Divine love for each one of us. John 3:16 is probably the best-loved verse in the Bible, and it has been called “everybody’s text” and the “Gospel of the Gospels.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is the summary of the Gospel message of salvation through Christ Jesus. This text is the very essence of the Gospel. It tells us that God takes the initiative in our salvation because of His love for us. St. Augustine puts it: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. Our God brings us to greater relief in our daily struggles and temptations and leads us to eternal life, thus demonstrating the depth of His love for us.
The first reading from the second Chronicles describes the history of the Israelites from the reign of their first king, Saul, (1030 BC), to the end of Judah’s exile in Babylon (550 BC), presenting the successful periods as well as the tragedies and military defeats. It shows how their infidelities caused them to lose their Temple, their homeland, their language, and to live as captives in Babylonian exile. It was their God who brought them to freedom through the pagan king Cyrus the Great of Persia to return them to their homeland and rebuild their Temple and city. Here we see their God leading the journey of Israel from their exile to freedom. In the second reading, St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (2: 4-10), reminds us though we don’t deserve anything from God on our own merits, God has chosen to love, save, and lead us from sin to salvation, as the people of Israel were led from exile to freedom.
When we walk according to the teachings of Christ, we are walking in the Light of Jesus. If we oppose these teachings, we oppose Christ himself; hence, we will be walking in darkness. The people of the Old Testament journeyed from exile to freedom with God. The people of the New Testament journeyed from sin to salvation with Jesus Christ. The people of our time are challenged today to journey from darkness to light with Christ who is the light of our lives. We are captives in our world, with our sins, temptations, addiction, and evil habits. We are captives of particular views, ideas, ideologies, and political affiliations. We are captives of false notions, wrong information, illusions, and delusions. We are captives of faulty thinking and rash judgments. We are captives of ourselves and our inclinations. They are probably areas of darkness in our lives where we need the light of Christ. A return journey with a contrite heart is the call of our time for each of us. Lent is the right time to make this journey from exile to freedom, sin to salvation, and darkness light. Our journey comes to fruition only when Christ leads this journey. Let us ask Jesus, our leader, to lead our journey back to the state of holiness and wellness of both body and mind. We need to love and hold on to the Cross, which symbolizes God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy. The Christian life is always an ongoing journey where we bear the Cross and carry the light of Christ. May God bless us all. Happy Weekend!
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS
(Fr. Tomy J. Puliyan, MSFS)
Joke of the week!
“For God so loved the world that” He sent His Son to Israel: A Jewish father in the U.S. was concerned about his son. He had not truly raised him in the faith of Judaism… So, hoping to strengthen his son’s Faith, the father sent him to Israel so that the boy could experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home. He said, “Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers. It was wonderful and enlightening. However, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity.”