BRIDGEPORT— “Our God is an unexpected God, a God of surprises whose work and grace influence us in unexpected ways,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for “Laetare” Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent.
The bishop it’s an understanding we should “take to heart on this Sunday of Joy, the fourth Sunday in Lent,” when we consider the challenge of missionary discipleship in a world that may seem indifferent to faith.
In his homily Bishop Caggiano focused on the 1st Reading from 2 Chronicles (36:14-16, 19-23) in which Cyrus, King of Persia, surprised the Jewish people by allowing them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem years after it had been sacked and burned.
The bishop began by noting that we may all at one time or another be pleasantly surprised when a person has who formerly thought little of us, perhaps even refused to speak with us, unexpectedly offers a compliment that makes us feel better about ourselves and gives hope for a new beginning in the relationship.
The people of Israel may have had a similar feeling when King Cyrus permitted them to rebuild the temple, he said.
“There would have been precious little that would have prepared God’s chosen people for the unexpected reaction of Cyrus,” he said.
“The Lord had moved the heart of the ruler of a pagan nation who had no knowledge of Jewish law and no reasons to allow them to rebuild the temple, “ since they represented only a small fraction of his earthly empire, he said.
Yet the prayers of the Jewish people were unexpectedly answered by a king who allowed their temple to be rebuilt.
“Our God is a God of unexpected turns,” he said, “But what does it mean for you and me on this Fourth Sunday in Lent?
The story of Cyrus should give us courage and strength to go out in fidelity and bear witness to our faith, “when it’s easy and when it’s not, with those who receive you and those who do not.”
He said as Catholics “we have a tendency to constrict missionary discipleship to what is comfortable and familiar” where our faith is affirmed.
However, the story of Cyrus challenges us to plant the seeds of faith “anywhere and everywhere we go because we don’t know how God moves a human heart.”
“We should not be discouraged when we do not initially see the fruits of our labor ,” he said. Rather we should continue to plant the seeds of charity, fidelity and mercy in all those we encounter, even if they don’t seem to bear fruit.
“For those who take missionary discipleship seriously, How do you measure success? he asked.
The bishop said there was a time of bustling growth when the success of the Church was measured by the all of the new parishes founded, the number of people at Mass, and the many programs sponsored.
“We live in a different time now, don’t we. There are heartaches for you and me when we see relatives and friends, nephews, nieces and grandchildren who have fallen away from the practice of faith… We try to bring them back but don’t see those seeds bear fruit.”
The bishop said the story of Cyrus gives us a reasons to take a step back, gain perspective and find encouragement that the seeds of faith won’t be stillborn.
“Grace works in unexpected ways,” he said, suggesting that we cannot measure the success of the spiritual life by “that which occurs outside of us,” but rather, we should persevere in fidelity to what the Lord asks of us.
In our contemporary lives, it is important to give witness to the truth of Jesus and to encounter friends and family, neighbors and enemies alike and not be discouraged if they don’t initially respond.
“There will be a time and place of the Lord’s choosing,” the bishop said.
“If the Lord could move the heart of Cyrus to rebuild his temple, is is there any human heart at the end that the Lord cannot move?”
Following the final blessing the bishop urged all to join him and others throughout the diocese in the nine-day Novena of St. Joseph offered each evening through the diocesan website at 7 p.m. The novena will conclude on Friday, March 19 when the bishop consecrates the Diocese to St. Joseph in a special live-streamed, 7 p.m. Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral. The live-stream will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the bishop leading the Rosary.
The bishop also took the time to wish all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day this week. He said St. Patrick was a man of great faith “who showed us the unexpected ways that God works in our lives.”
The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/