Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)
Today St. Paul proclaims to us what everyone desires and needs to do: “Try to learn what is pleasing to God.” A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to honor thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, ‘Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?’ Without missing a beat one little boy answered, ‘Thou shall not kill’ (www.wilk4.com). Friendship with God is always manifested in relationship with others, and wholesome and upright relationship with others is always pleasing to God.
So, we consider the following lessons:
1. Jesus’ loving message is: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15: 15).
a) Friendship is manifested in actions. A mere desire to be friendly is not friendship. Only that which is manifested in actions can grow and develop. Friendship with God has to be manifested in constant prayer and reflection of the Scriptures, in diligent reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and conscious support of the needy. To be close to God is to be close to His Church and His people.
b) Friendship is supportive. A person who looks for constant praises of himself is selfish, and will only alienate others. A person who always talks against another person alienates himself from God and from people. Friendship with God cannot just be a vertical relationship; it also has to be a horizontal, conscious effort, a relationship with God’s children. Therefore, good relations with people and helping the needy are necessary ingredients for a healing and saving relationship with God.
c) Friendship always leads to God. As one cannot pray against another person because he does not like him (as that is not worthy of God), a person cannot manipulate friendship so that he gets all the credit for what he does. Anything that breaks or hinders friendship is trash and is not pleasing to God.
2. We have to become instruments of unity, not of division as manifested by the Pharisees, who were hurt that Jesus was too much for them and were envious of the growing popularity of Jesus.
a) Division caused by pride and intolerance brings a breakdown of relationships among men, and especially with God. Division causes petty quarrels, years of unresolved disagreements, and wars. Pride eats up the heart; and when the heart is eroded by pride, there is no other place that God can live, as He is driven away, and replaced by the self.
b) Division caused by greed and jealousy leads others astray. People lose their sense of brotherhood and community. Greed fills the heart to the brim with temporal things and with selfishness; and when the heart is full, God has no place to stay, as He is driven away, and replaced by the self and worldly things.
c) Division caused by laziness and infidelity is a way of life the devil and his angels bring upon families. Laziness and infidelity pull people down heavily. Division caused by these selfish schemes is the playground of the devil. As the saying goes, “you give the devil an inch, he becomes the ruler.” This, certainly, is not pleasing to God and alienates brothers from one another.
3. We can relate with God only when we treat our blessings as God’s gift for the good of His people and for His greater glory. So:
a) Let us count our blessings with gratitude in our hearts. Boast, but only in the Lord, St. Paul says. Gratitude should be the language and memory of the heart. Without gratitude, life can be very miserable.
b) Let us always bring our blessings to the altar of sacrifice. We make our capacities and capabilities holy by offering them at the celebration of the Eucharist with the whole community. There can be no blessings and experiences of joy without sacrifice.
c) Let us share our blessings. Anything that is not shared with the community is not a blessing in the first place, for it is selfish. Our resources are not meant to be ours only. They are meant for the good of the community. Aid to the needy in any capacity and done in humility is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord and covers a multitude of sins.
We received the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism. Let us live out this grace by being supportive to all, for we all have the same Spirit. May the Eucharist make us faithful instruments of unity and truth, and a blessing to all. God created us to be in communion with one another. He is the ultimate reason anyway for our existence. “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (cf. Eph 5:8-14).