Year B – 4th Sunday of Lent

Year B - 4th Sunday of Lent 2

Second Chances

(2Chron.36:14-16, 19-23; Eph.2:4-10; Jn.3:14-21)

What would you do if you were offered a second chance?

In Victor Hugo’s famous story Les Misérables, Jean Valjean is caught stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving family. He’s sent to gaol and when he’s released years later, he’s totally destitute. No-one wants him. A bishop offers him food, shelter and hope, but Jean responds by stealing his silverware.

Again he is caught, but this time the bishop tells the police the silverware was a gift. Jean is stunned. Later, the bishop says to him: ‘You no longer belong to evil, but to good. It’s your soul I am buying for you… and I give it to God!’

Jean is given another chance. He accepts it and his life is transformed.

This is a great story, but what makes it stand out is the fact that our world today is so cruelly unforgiving. If someone makes a mistake, they’re more likely to receive a cold shoulder than a second chance. And yet, it’s natural for us to make mistakes.

Learning and growing can take us a lifetime.

If you need a second chance right now, it’s worth noting that that’s exactly what God is offering us. From the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the Heavenly Garden in Revelation, the Bible is packed full of stories about God giving people another go.

There are so many examples. Adam and Eve disobey God; Jonah escapes from God; David commits adultery and has someone murdered; Rahab is a prostitute and Peter denies Jesus three times. But God doesn’t reject any of these people. He gives them all a chance to redeem themselves, and they do.

Then there’s Moses. He murders a man, but God still asks him to lead His people. Then after receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses gets angry with his people’s golden calf worship and he smashes those tablets. He regrets it, though, and expects to be punished, but he finds himself with two new tablets instead (Deut.9-10).

And Zacchaeus, the pint-sized tax collector in Jericho, feels guilty for his greed. The people hate him, but Jesus doesn’t. Jesus invites him to a meal and offers him a fresh start.

The Woman at the Well, too, has lived a life of sin. She’s shunned by her community and filled with shame. But when she goes looking for water, she finds Jesus instead and He offers her hope. Her life is also transformed (Jn.4).

Then there’s that famous fruitless fig tree. Its owner wants to chop it down, but the vinedresser says ‘Give it another chance!’ The owner agrees, and gives it another year (Lk.13:6-9).

But perhaps the most famous second chance story of all is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the son insults his father by leaving home and taking his inheritance with him. After getting into trouble, the boy returns home, but the father doesn’t punish him. Instead, he celebrates his return with a feast of love.

Year B - 4th Sunday of Lent 3

All through the Scriptures there’s this constant thread of stories about people being given another chance in life. And underpinning it all is today’s Gospel, with perhaps the most famous Biblical verse of all time: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life,’ (Jn.3:16).

This one sentence summarises not only the Gospel, but also the whole Bible, and it explains God’s plan from the beginning of time.

It points out how much God loves us, because He gave us His only Son, and it promises that if we truly believe in Jesus, then we will live forever with him in heaven.

Now, it’s worth noting here that Jesus says ‘everyone’ – not ‘some people’ but everyone, regardless of who we are, where we come from and what we might have done. We’re all being offered a second chance at life, regardless of our circumstances (Prov.28:13; 2Pet.3:9).

All we have to do is take Jesus into our hearts and trust Him. 

Right now we are in Lent, and Lent is the perfect time for us to reflect on this message, because it’s central to Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are all about second chances – and new life.

By his Cross and resurrection, Jesus shows us that it’s always possible to break free from our past, to begin a new life in the light of God’s grace. 

This is the paschal mystery, and the heart of our Christian story.

There’s new life waiting for us all.