Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year B: 14.03.21
10.30am: Holy Family Church, Askea
Laetare Sunday begins the fourth week of Lent commences, the contrast theme between darkness and light, despair and hope, lost and found permeate all our scripture.
“The Son of Man must be lifted up”, the greek verb ‘lifted up’ has a double meaning, it can be the physical lifting up of Jesus on the Cross or the spiritual lifting up of all of us as we reflect on the Cross and its message in the pandemic world of 2021.
Lets call to mind our sins …
Will there be a sign of that billboard ‘John 3:16’ in Murrayfield as Ireland take on Scotland in the Six Nations this afternoon? So what is the reference John 3:16?: “Everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”, even the non-scripture scholars with us on webcam this morning will be familiar with the placard at Netwatch Dr. Cullen Park that simply reads: ‘John 3:16’. A clever piece of bill boarding and not even a cent spent on an advertising agency! Today our gospel places the reference in its proper context, the promise of eternal life for those who believe in Him.
Nicodemus and Jesus are having a chat and we, so to speak, are eavesdropping! The old order and the new meet face to face, in the shade for fear of reprisals. Nicodemus was walking a tightrope. Being born again, isn’t a return journey into the womb, or up to the baptismal font as some might suggest, but simply the honesty to walk in the light of truth, in the realization that we are, all of us, loved by God. Returning to the womb, our earliest lessons on being loved have come from our mother’s womb, not a bad message for all of us on this Mothers Day!
Mother’s Day falls beautifully within a Week of Prayer especially designed to lead up to the Feast of St. Joseph next Friday. Whats the big deal with St. Joseph and next Friday you might reasonably ask? Well next Friday Pope Francis will launch a year dedicated to the family, which will conclude in June 2022 at the Tenth World Meeting of Families in Rome. Remember when we hosted the ninth one in Dublin back in 2018? And here in Askea, in the only church dedicated to the Holy Family in our diocese, I am delighted today to reflect on the importance of this week of prayer, the importance of the fifteen months that follow and the important message St. Joseph offers all of us in todays world.
Pope Francis is calling the year ‘Amoris Laetitia Family Year’, because next Friday is also the fifth anniversary of the publication of that document on the ‘Joy of Love’ (Amoris Laetitia) by Pope Francis. The prayers for each of the days of this week will be uploaded onto Facebook, Twitter, our KandLe website, the Irish Bishop’s Conference website and many other platforms. Each day offers a thought around St. Joseph, a reflection on family life, taken many time from Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Year of St. Joseph.
Family life can be messy, awkward, uncomfortable. We all have floor boards that squeak; we all have taps that drip. But it also so often can be blessed, joyful and fun. On a day like Mother’s Day let us celebrate the role our Mothers play in every family. Some families have lost their mothers due to the pandemic this year, you are especially in our prayers. Some have mothers who maybe don’t know us, recognise us or acknowledge us, and there is huge pain there as evidenced in the recent Mother and Baby Homes Report. All of us have mothers who do too much for us and are at everyones beck and call. Today we celebrate mothers and their critical role in family life. Pope Francis sees them as “a great treasure … in their unconditional and sacrifical love for their children … the antidote to individualism”.
Our reflection this Sunday in our week of prayer reminds us at the very beginning of Amoris Laetitia: “the Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church” (par. 1). While our Sunday worship is virtual these days, and the only ones physically gathered are sacristans, Ministers of the Word, music ministry people and the celebrant – we are aware our celebrations miss hugely the joy of the parish family – physically gathering, physically assembling, physically worshipping. The pandemic has choked the joy out of so much of our lives, our games, our sport, our music, our culture and our public worship. The pandemic has separated many of us from the place we call ‘home’ and Mothers Day celebrations as a result will in the main be virtual, perhaps through a pain of glass or on Facetime. The pandemic is at too dicey a point to risk longer and even more severe restrictions.
The number of cases has plateaued, has levelled off, but at far too high a level. Let us hold tight, family means everything to us, let us continue the journey, abiding by NPHET guidelines and the government’s roadmap, we owe it to our own mothers and dads, brothers and sisters, grans and grandads, we owe it to the family of parish, community, diocese, the family that is Ireland on this the week of St. Patrick. Let us pray for one another but let us also protect one another. And that protection includes availing of the vaccine as soon as it is offered, to suggest otherwise totally militates against the common good. This pandemic has taught all of us in the clearest language yet, what we need to do collectively to promote that common good. We are doing it for our Mothers this day, we are doing it for our family and that very much includes the parish family and the diocesan family.