Sunday Scripture readings, March 11: The Gospel in a nutshell


The Catholic News Service column, “Speak to Me Lord,” offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

March 11, Fourth Sunday of Lent

Cycle B

1) 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalm 137:1-6
2) Eph 2:4-10
Gospel: Jn 3:14-21

By Jem Sullivan
Catholic News Service

Looking for a summary of the Christian faith? This Sunday’s Gospel is a good place to start: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

St. John brings us to the heart of the Gospel and the heart of Christian faith.

This fourth Sunday of Lent is a perfect time to take stock of our Lenten observance. With two weeks to Holy Week, we might pause to reflect on whether our Lenten practice is bringing us closer to the mystery of Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection.

Am I growing in friendship with God and love of neighbor through prayer, acts of penance and almsgiving?


Jem Sullivan writes for the Catholic News Service Scripture column, “Speak to Me Lord.” (CNS photo/courtesy Jem Sullivan)

From time to time, the people of Israel needed to take stock of their relationship to God. The first reading is a reminder that God was faithful to Israel, calling them into a covenant relationship of love and mercy. Yet the people of Israel were unfaithful to God.

The author of the Second Book of Chronicles describes their failings in stark terms: “All the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s Temple, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.” God sent messenger after messenger to draw the people back to God’s deep and faithful love.

Lent is a time to open our hearts and minds to those messengers who draw us back to God’s love. The word of God and the Eucharist invite us, time and time again, to return to the mercy of God who is rich in kindness and fidelity.

In the midst of our busy days and our many responsibilities, the word of God calls us out of ourselves, to leave behind self-absorption, weakness, despair and failure and to move into the light of God’s mercy, joy and covenant love.

In his 2018 Lenten message, Pope Francis says that the season of Lent is a “‘sacramental sign of our conversion.’ Lent summons us, enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.” Why? So that we may not perish but encounter the immense love of God who gave his Son to the world to lead us to the joy and peace of eternal life.

God’s word invites us to take the opportunity of these remaining weeks of Lent to listen to the Lord calling us by name, as he did the people of Israel, and to return to the forgiving, merciful embrace of God.

Let us renew our resolve to spend time in prayer, to offer sacrifices of penance that purify our hearts and minds, and to share our resources with those in need, as we say in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Questions:

How has my spiritual life deepened through the journey of Lent? In these remaining weeks of Lent, how can I resolve to draw closer to God in word and sacrament?

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Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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