Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
(Isaiah 65:17-21; John 4:43-54)
When St. John Paul II was elected pope in 1978, he advised that the celebration of Jubilee 2000 would be the hallmark of his papacy. Sure enough, as the bicentennial became more proximate, he issued calls for a global celebration. Grand synods of bishops were convoked in the different parts of the world. Tributes were issued to God the Father in 1998, God the Spirit in 1999, and Jesus, the Son of God, in the long anticipated year. The readings today suggest that similar preparations for Easter now be planned.
The theme of the Lenten mass readings has changed from remorse and repentance for sins to anticipation of the graces of Easter. The first reading from the third part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah tells of a new beginning about to take place. God, it says, will turn the people’s mourning into joy. No one, it continues, will be deprived of a long life. The gospel passage indicates why. It shows Jesus performing the first of his healings in the Gospel of John. His power, it makes clear, transcends space as he heals the royal official’s son from a distance.
People have traditionally prepared for Easter by buying a new set of clothes. The idea was as much as clothes make the person, so the people will show that they have been recreated in Christ by new dress. We should concern ourselves with the virtues that indicate a new creation: gratitude in place of criticism, charity in place of miserliness, and hope in place of discouragement. Of course, now is the time to start practicing these virtues so that at Easter they become as apparent as a beautiful woman’s Easter bonnet.