4th Sunday of Lent
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
“Early and often did the Lord, the God of our fathers, send messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people” (2 Chron. 36:15). God shows His compassion towards us by repeatedly calling us back to Him. No matter how far the people wandered, God’s call to them is a beacon in the storm. Let there be no doubt about this: God’s commandments are absolute. However, in His mercy, God does not desire sinners perish. God makes use of magisterial teaching, the voice of conscience, and manifestations of His loving providence to call us back to life. When He calls, He waits for our answer. “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on you hearts” (Duet. 6:4-6). The commandments are God’s Words for life. Obedience to God’s Word is required of any who desire to live life to the full. If we hearken to the voice of the Lord, His merciful kindness will be the source of our joy. The Word Who became Flesh sacrifices Himself, expiates sin, and remains forever alive to intercede on our behalf.
Anyone who turns from the will of God and His commandments is actually turning from life. People are much too glib about sin and its consequences. Sin holds us bound to earth and limits our vision, rendering us incapable of lifting our eyes to heaven. The author of Proverbs writes: “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men… whose paths are crooked and whose ways are cunning and devious” (Pro. 2: 12, 15). Wisdom tells us to be intent on the Word of God that echoes in our hearts. The ways of sin are ways of darkness, whereas the ways of wisdom give light to our steps and allow us to avoid stumbling on the path. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
Jesus Christ is the merciful love of God made visible and tangible. Recall these words taken from the First Letter of John: “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all” (1Jn. 1:5). In Christ, God seeks out all who are trapped in darkness. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. Therefore, it is important that we walk in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives. Remember the teaching of the author of Proverbs: “Even though the righteous man falls seven times, he will get back up, but the wicked man stumbles into utter and complete ruin” (Pro. 24:16). The sincere person falls as a traveler may do, by stumbling over some block in the path; but like a traveler strives to get up again, to proceed on his way with confidence and courage. Having fallen, we need to confess our sins and rely on the mercy of God who reconciled all of humanity to Himself by the sacrifice of his Beloved Son. We have Jesus’ word to be the anchor of our soul. “I have prayed for you, Simon, so that your faith may not fail. And when you have repented and come back to me, strengthen you brothers” (Lk. 22:32).
The Bishops at Vatican Two wrote: “The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life” (LG 40). Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is the image of the invisible God. Recall these words taken from the First letter to the Thessalonians: “You are all children of the light and children of the day. We are not of night nor of darkness” (1Thes. 5:5). Knowing that we are children of light is cause for our joy and the anchor of our soul. Those who follow Christ will never walk in darkness. It is interesting that Nicodemus came to the Light under the cloak of darkness. Though he came by night, Jesus welcomed him into the Light of a new day, the beginning of a new life. By being lifted up on the Cross, Christ has drawn all men to Himself and made all things new. In Him we have a new nature, new principles for living, new affections and new aims. By means of His self-sacrificing love, Christ has been done for us, what we could not do for ourselves.
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not just show us the way to encounter God, a path we can walk on our own by being obedient to his words and by imitating his example. He actually opened for us the door to freedom, and became for us the way to the Father. Lifted high on the cross, Jesus call to each of us: “Come to me, all you who are burdened with sin, and I will make you whole” (Cf. Mat. 11:28). My brothers and sisters, let us lift up our eyes and fix our gaze on Christ who became poor so that we might made rich and might enjoy the fullness of life in His heavenly Kingdom. We who have been so self-sufficient must now depend on the Lord and surrender to the Obedience of the Gospel.
Each human being has been created by God in His image and likeness. God has implanted in each of us a word that enables us to recognize the gifts of the Creator and to live in communion with one another. The Son of God who never knew sin, accompanies sinners so as to bring all of us to repentance and newness of life. We have been exalted by His humiliation. We have been brought to life by His death on the cross. Looking to the cross, we will find forgiveness for all our sins. Standing in the shadow of the cross, our poverty is transformed by His abundant mercy. The Lord asks of us the little that we have and exchanges it for the glory that is His.
“All glory to God who, through His power at work within us, is able to do immeasurably more than we could hope or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). Lifted high on the Cross, Christ draws all mankind to himself. Through His death, resurrection and glorious ascension, Christ has entered into the heavenly sanctuary where He makes intercession before His Father for all the members of the human race whom he has bound to himself in an unbreakable bond of unity. In Christ, we have been brought to the fullness of life in the Spirit and have been enabled to live in communion with the Persons of the Trinity. What is required of us is love that is true and authentic. We must grasp and allow to mature in our lives the holiness we have received. To the extent to which we discover the infinite beauty, love, and humility of Christ, we can feel a deep compassion for and solidarity with the poor and marginalized. Let us fix our gaze on Christ lifted up on the cross and live our lives for the glory of God.