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The Fourth Sunday in Lent
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 2: Septuagesima to Easter Eve (p. 84)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Today is often called Mothering Sunday in the Anglican Communion.  It takes this name from the Epistle, where St. Paul says, Jerusalem which is above is free; which is the mother of us all' (Gal 4:26). 

This heavenly Jerusalem is our spiritual home.  Here on earth she is the Church, nourished in the wilderness by God (Rev. 12:6).  At the last day, she shall be made manifest as the bride of Christ, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending upon a renovated earth for the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 21:1, 19:7).  This is the city of the living God (Heb. 12:22), where the saints love even themselves only for God's sake. 

There is, however, another earthly city (compare Gal. 4:25; Rev. 17:1-6).  In this city, charity has been so perverted that not even true self-love remains, only the pride of life.  The pride of life is a boastful assertion of one's own superiority and exaltation of one's deeds.  It shows itself as a twisted desire for reputation and respect among men for one's own sake, and not for God's.  It can be defined as an unwillingness to acknowledge God's proper authority over his creatures or as a substitution of one's own will for God's will. 

This was our Lord's third temptation in the wilderness, for there he was tempted to strike a bargain with the devil for worldly glory.  Such a temptation could only appeal to an arrogant desire to be loved and feared by men for one's own sake, to the utter exclusion of God. 

We should give thanks to God that we are not children of the bond-woman, but the free' (Gal. 4:31).  We are not citizens of the earthly city, but of the city of God.  We have been called to share in the marriage supper of the Lamb, the heavenly banquet of the Lord. 

Happily we have had a foretaste of this heavenly refreshment, for this was our Lord's point in the miraculous feeding of the multitude on the lonely mountain top.  He meant to teach them that he was the true bread come down from heaven.  To eat of this bread is to live eternally (John 6:51).  That meal in the wilderness was meant to anticipate the banquet in the coming kingdom.  Moreover, this participation beforehand in the Messiah's banquet was extended at the institution of the Lord's Supper as well (John 6:53: compare Luke 22:15, 16).  Thus, even now we are able to feed on that bread of life which is our inheritance with the saints in light (compare Col. 1:12). 

Today is also often called Refreshment Sunday on account of the Gospel.  Last week we were warned not to leave our souls clear of our old sins but empty of faith in God, or else sin would return many times worse than it had been in the first place.  Let us, therefore, fill our souls with the bread of life, which is Jesus.  He is present to us in the Word and Sacrament and able to furnish our souls with His own virtue by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Thus refreshed, let us go up to Jerusalem with our Lord in all humility to suffer and die and rise again.