4th Sunday of Lent
Gospel of John 3:14-21
There is an early church tradition about St. Moses the Ethiopian, a 4th century saint, and his spiritual mentor, St. Isidore. St. Moses the Ethiopian was a physically intimidating man who was known for his ruthlessness, brutality, and life of crime long before he was known as a saint. It was shortly after St. Moses the Ethiopian had turned his back on his former life and was struggling to remain faithful to his conversion, that he and his mentor, St. Isidore, sat on the roof of the monastery all through the night for the singular purpose of watching the sun rise. After the sun had fully risen St. Isidore turned to St. Moses the Ethiopian and said, “See how long it takes for the light to drive away the darkness of night?… It is the same with the soul.”
The word Lent itself comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, lencten. It describes the gradual lengthening of the daylight after the winter solstice. Today, I would suggest, that it is possible that we too wish we had an English word that best describes the lengthening of the daylight and the shortening of the night; for it seems that winter may yet last another 3 months. However, in spite of our intolerance of winter, and in spite of our complaints, we eagerly look forward to spring, the changing of the season, the re-birth.
Our Lenten journey has thus far been a journey that has lead us deeper into the desert. Though our destination is drawing closer with each passing step we are keenly aware that our journey has caused us to travel farther from comfort and ease as it has brought us greater trial, toil, and struggle. At this point in our journey we have experienced tests and temptations that go beyond the discomfort of penance and self-sacrifice. We have now begun to face the insecurities and doubts that accompany the confrontation of our limitations, deficiencies, and failings. It is at this point in our Lenten journey when we are forced to re-align our expectations with the realities of the cost of true discipleship. It is also, at this point in our Lenten journey, when we have opportunity to experience the grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love of God.
The best description for today, this 4th Sunday of Lent, is that the pre-dawn is upon us. The Church encourages us today to begin to shift our gaze from the path to the horizon, and the beginning of the rising of the Son. St. John the Evangelist reminds us that the Light of the world, Jesus, has come into the world so that we may have eternal life. The Light of the world, Jesus the Christ, a gift from God both in his humanity and by his sacrifice, has come into this world to be the light in the darkness. The Light of the World, our Savior, has come into this world that we may not be condemned but have hope in his resurrection.
One of my favorite moments of the day occurs in the early hour before the rising of the sun. That moment, in the pre-dawn, when all of creation begin to stir and arise in hope to the promise of the day. The birds have not yet begun their song in earnest; yet, much like a musician warming up an instrument, they prepare for their part in the chorus of the dawn.
Today our Lenten journey is just like that moment. Full in the confidence in the promises of Jesus I ask you to turn your heats and your minds to the horizon and prepare yourself to celebrate the dawn of Christ, the rising of the Son, the new day in our pilgrimage here on this earth.