The Fourth Sunday of Lent: Step Out of Darkness into the Light March 8, 2024

The Fourth Sunday of Lent: Join the Journey! 

Bend your knees, mend your heart, and lend your hands.”

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. Jn 3:16

We are now half-way through the season of Lent. We have entered the desert, climbed the mountain, cleansed the temple and on this fourth Sunday of Lent we are invited to step out of darkness into the light, which is Christ.

There are those people in our lives whom we deeply value and treasure, simply for who they are. Their worth to us is beyond price and we would do anything for them. Our experience of loving these people gives us a glimpse into the love God has for us.

Today’s Gospel mentions that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” It is the very cross on which Jesus died that is a sign to us how far God is willing to go to save us. It is an assurance of God’s boundless mercy for us. In turn we are called to love God and our neighbors unconditionally.

Like the Jewish people during the Babylonian exile “sat and wept” as today’s psalm recounts we often find ourselves sitting and weeping, maybe not literally but surely spiritually. At times we find ourselves in darkness which may feel overwhelming. This can be the darkness of illness in body or mind. It can be darkness brought on by a sense of powerlessness in the face of everything that seems to be going awry in our world. It can be a spiritual darkness when we doubt our faith. It can even be the darkness brought on by sin.

Today’s Gospel offers us the light of Christ as a clear path out of every kind of darkness. Thankfully, Christ’ light does not mercilessly expose our weaknesses but rather illuminates our mind and soul. Christ’s light allows us to see that we are created in God’s image and baptized in Christ’s death and resurrection so we may live as Children of the light. Today we are given a clear choice. We can either stay in the darkness or we can follow the light. As Christians we must follow the light.

During this Fourth week of Lent, we invite you to: bend your knees while giving thanks for God’s boundless Love for us; mend your heart by choosing light over darkness; and lend your hands by loving others as God loves us.

  • Bending our Knees by Giving Thanks for God’s Boundless Love
    • The Pashal Mystery or the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the most amazing and profound of mysteries. The fact that the creator of all that is became one of us to show us the path to salvation, even if by way of the cross is unfathomable. Our response cannot but be a deep sense of gratitude and a desire to respond in kind with a willingness to serve God at any cost.
    • One of the many forms of prayer we have in our church is prayer of thanksgiving with the celebration of the Eucharist as the highest form of thanksgiving summarized in the words spoken by the priest every time we gather for the Eucharist: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and ever-living God.”
    • Early Christians had a deep sense of obligation to celebrate the Eucharist as they followed Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me.” Their sense of obligation was not something that was imposed on them, rather it was an inner sense of obligation. Lent is the perfect time to meditate on the Paschal Mystery and on our “obligation” to give thanks in turn by celebrating the Eucharist.
    • One small step during Lent could be to commit ourselves to participate fully and actively in the Celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays.
  • Mending our Hearts by Choosing Light over Darkness
  • In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses puts a clear choice before the Israelites which is summed up in this one sentence: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing, and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.” (Deut., 30: 19)
  • In today’s gospel we are given the same choice as we are invited to choose light over darkness. The most detrimental secrets in a person’s life flourish in darkness. Much can be hidden under the cloak of darkness. During Lent we are invited to leave the darkness behind and to embrace the light.
  • Stepping into the light requires a willingness to be vulnerable because in the light, everything comes to light, the good and the ugly. It is shame and sin that prevent us from stepping into the light. The first step toward the light is to acknowledge our shame and sin. Having done that we will be able to walk into the bright and cleansing light of Christ. It is our choice for life over death.
  • One small step during Lent could be to adopt the Jesuit practice of a daily examen (
  • Lending our Hands by Loving Others as God Loves Us
  • When asked what the greatest of the commandments are, Jesus responded: “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12: 29-31)
  • Love of God and neighbor go hand in hand. The one cannot exist without the other. The source of our love is God who has loved us first and always awaits us with his tenderness and mercy. Our love of God is a response to God’s love for us. Our love of neighbor is inspired by God’s love for us. And the measure of our love of God is our love of neighbor.
  • In 2020 before the recitation of the Sunday Angelus Pope Francis said that Jesus teaches us that “it is not true love of God if it is not expressed in the love of the other,” and, vice versa, “it is not true love of the other if it is not rooted in one’s relationship with God.” He went on to say that Love for God is expressed most of all in prayer and adoration, while love for one’s neighbor is expressed by being close to people, listening to them, sharing, and caring for others.
  • One small step during Lent could be to try just a bit harder to love the people in our lives who make loving them difficult.

And please remember to be patient with yourself and others.  Lent is not an endurance test or a time to prove our Christian stamina. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So pace yourselves. Give yourself and others some space. And above all be forgiving.

Blessed Lent,
Johan van Parys, PhD
Managing Director of Ministries/ Director of Liturgy & Sacred Arts