2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
Many people have experienced some form of exile or separation from home, family or their livelihood. Often this is accompanied by loneliness, fear and even a sense of abandonment by God. The Israelites experienced exile as a result of their lack of fidelity to God. Yet the scriptures and particularly the first reading of today tell us that God never forgot them. They finally came back to God and recognised his healing power and the love to humanity. In the Gospel of today Jesus shows that his love extends to all humanity. There is the saving grace and abounding love in the cross of Jesus and in it we see his heart, his mercy and compassion. He is not one who does not judge nor does he condemn but will save any one who looks at him with faith and devotion. In this way we partake in the divinity of God and in his grace and compassion. The readings of today tell us that we have to be the sign of God’s mercy and compassion in the world. Through our actions we play a vital part in God’s salvation to the whole of the humanity.
The First Reading of today taken from the Second Book of Chronicles we heard of the compassion and patience of the Lord God. The Lord God does not wish for any to perish because of their disobedience to His righteousness. The Lord God tolerated with patience the sins of His people. He constantly kept in close contact with His people by sending many prophets as messengers to them so they would turn away from their sins. However, the people despised the Words of God and scoffed at His prophets. Because of the sins of the Jewish people, from the priests down, because of idolatry and other shameful and sacrilegious practices a terrible punishment fell on the whole people through Nebuchadnezzar, king of Persia. Everything was destroyed, the House of God, the walls of Jerusalem, the palaces and its precious vessels. And those who escaped the sword, they were taken into exile in Babylon as slaves by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Persia. When king Cyrus of Persia came into power, he was inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to call the children of God to return to the holy city of Jerusalem to rebuild the House of Yahweh.
While speaking to the Ephesians St Paul insists that if we are saved by the grace of God, it is not by our own doing. There is nothing that we can do to secure our salvation. How can one secure the new birth that is absolutely necessary for eternal life in the Kingdom of God when what is spiritual cannot be seen or touched? It is impossible! Those who experience spiritual death by rejecting the grace of God, they will inherit eternal damnation. Eternal life in the beatific vision of God can only come to us by the grace of God. To inherit God’s gift of salvation, we need the gift of the grace of God, faith in Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism! This is because we have been created through Jesus to do good works by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is because we have been called to shine in the fruit of the Holy Spirit as holy children who are worthy of the grace of God.
The Gospel of today makes a comparison with Moses, who was also an agent of God and a saviour of God’s people. In this Biblical passage, Jesus was referring to an event that occurred in the days of the Old Testament. The Israelites in the desert had been complaining bitterly about their conditions so they were punished by God who sent a plague of serpents among the people and many died. At God’s command, Moses raised up a bronze serpent on a pole “and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered”. John tells us that Jesus too will be lifted up. For John Jesus’ being “lifted up” includes both his being raised up on a cross and being raised up to be with his Father in glory at the resurrection.
Here John gives the summary of our entire salvific mystery, God’s unlimited love for the world. The Gospel says that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son for our sake that we may have eternal life through him. God here sacrifices something most precious to him, his own son so that we may have life in and through him. For us Jesus is the new life. The very fact of looking at the bronze serpent brought life to the Israelites who were bitten by the serpents and certainly looking at Jesus would mean new life for the individual person, as Nicodemus was promised by Jesus. All those who look up to Jesus in faith will be saved, will be given “eternal life”, a life that never can be taken away. He emphasises that God sent his Son to save and not to judge or condemn. He did not come to judge but to save. Jesus came to show you the way, the truth and the life so you may walk in the Light. Jesus is the Light. He is the only way! He is the only Truth! He is the only Life! There are none other but Jesus who can save us by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through our living faith in Christ, we have the assurance of salvation.
On the contrary, whoever refuses to believe in Jesus is already condemned. This is not at all directed at those who sincerely follow another faith, another religion, and another vision of life. Judgment and condemnation happen where people prefer darkness to light, as indicated by lives of evil and immoral behaviour: hate instead of love; vengeance instead of forgiveness; greed instead of sharing; taking instead of giving life…It is not a loving God who condemns; rather people choose to alienate themselves from his love. Further Jesus hates the darkness of prejudice, wrong judgment, calumny, hurts, hate and anxiety.
During this time of Lent, let us review our hearts to determine where we stand. Let us then look at Jesus lifted up on the cross and in glory. Let us see the colossal love of God for us shown there. Let us open our hearts to that love and let it flow right through us to bring life and hope to others. Our light must shine before others, as we read in the Sermon on the Mount, so that they will see the good things we do, not so that they will stand in awe at our goodness but rather to be led to the Loving God who has made us like this. But as the Second Reading reminds us today, all our goodness is God’s gift to us and is nothing for us to boast about. Our goodness, such as it is, is his goodness shining through us
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Fourth Sunday of Lent March 22, 2009
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21