The Fourth Week of Lent: Sunday, March 22, 2020

Read John 6:27-40

The fourth week of Lent is traditionally a week of respite from the rigors of the Lenten fast.  This day is called “Laetare Sunday”, from the introit of the Mass.  The word Laetare means “Rejoice”, and the lessons appointed for today reflect our Lord’s ability to provide for His People in all circumstances.  He can feed us, even when we find ourselves wandering in the wilderness.

This past Thursday, Mark related the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people with only five loaves and two fish.  And this coming Tuesday we will read the evangelist’s record of the feeding of the 4000 with seven loaves “and a few small fish”.  But as we have noted, Mark is not presenting a biography or a history.  The purpose of the recitation of these feedings is the proclamation of our Lord’s ability to provide for His people.  This is made clear when Mark contrasts our Lord’s provision with the “yeast of the Pharisees and Herodians”.  

As we are exhorted in the Gospel reading appointed for today, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…” (John 6:27,35).  And then our Lord leaves us with no doubt about the source and substance of that food.  The source:  “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven” (6:32).  And the substance:  “I am the bread of life…” (6:35).

The fourth week of Lent is traditionally a week of respite from the rigors of the Lenten fast.  This day is called “Laetare Sunday”, from the introit of the Mass.  The word Laetare means “Rejoice”, and the lessons appointed for today reflect our Lord’s ability to provide for His People in all circumstances.  He can feed us, even when we find ourselves wandering in the wilderness.

This past Thursday, Mark related the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people with only five loaves and two fish.  And this coming Tuesday we will read the evangelist’s record of the feeding of the 4000 with seven loaves “and a few small fish”.  But as we have noted, Mark is not presenting a biography or a history.  The purpose of the recitation of these feedings is the proclamation of our Lord’s ability to provide for His people.  This is made clear when Mark contrasts our Lord’s provision with the “yeast of the Pharisees and Herodians”.  

As we are exhorted in the Gospel reading appointed for today, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…” (John 6:27,35).  And then our Lord leaves us with no doubt about the source and substance of that food.  The source:  “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven” (6:32).  And the substance:  “I am the bread of life…” (6:35).

As we pass the midway point in our Lenten pilgrimage, Mark begins to turn our attention toward Jerusalem.  Jesus begins to prepare His disciples for the sacrifice that is yet to come.  They will need encouragement.  He knows that all will fail Him.  One will betray Him.  One will deny Him.  All will abandon Him.  Mark can relate to their plight.  His presentation of our Lord’s preparation is an encouragement for him, and for all of us.

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