4th Sunday of Lent (B).
GOD’S GIFT OF LOVE AND SALVATION, THE REASON OF OUR JOY, DEMANDS A LIVING FAITH IN JESUS.
- Laetare Sunday
- Why the bronze serpent?
- The necessity of a living faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
Today we are celebrating Laetare Sunday or Sunday of joy, for Holy Week and Easter feasts are fast approaching.
In them we will celebrate our salvation through the pure grace of God, who, having died for our sins, has made us to live with Christ (2nd reading: Eph 2:4–10).
- God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ
Today’s Gospel (Jn 3:14–21) recounts Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, in which He assures us that God loves us very much, an immense love manifested by sending His Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ into the world not to condemn it, but to save it.
This unmerited gift of total love from God calls for us to receive it with faith:
- “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (vv. 14-15).”
The bronze serpent which Jesus mentioned in his conversation with Nicodemus refers to that same bronze serpent which Moses set up on a pole obeying God’s instructions so as to cure those who had been bitten by the poisonous serpents in the desert (cf. Num 2 1:8-9).
Now, Jesus compares the bronze serpent with his Crucifixion, to show the value of his being raised up on the Cross and those who look on him with faith can obtain salvation.
Jesus, the Son of God took on our human nature to reveal to us the hidden mystery of God’s own life and to free from sin and death all those who look at him with faith and love and who embrace the cross of each day.
- Believing in Jesus Christ, faith, is more than just a mere intellectual acceptance of the truths he has taught.
- Faith in Jesus involves acknowledging and accepting him as the Son of God (cf. 1 Jn 5:1), sharing his very life (cf. Jn 1:12) and surrendering ourselves out of love and therefore becoming like him (cf. Jn 10:27; 1 Jn 3:2).
- Howerver, this faith is a gift of God (cf. Jn 3:3, 5-8), and we should ask him to strengthen it and increase it as the Apostles did: Lord “increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5).
- While faith is a supernatural, free gift, it is also a virtue, a good habit, which a person can practise and thereby develop: so the Christian, who already has the divine gift of faith, needs with the help of grace to make explicit acts of faith in order to make this virtue grow.
- These explicit acts of faith, aside from believing in Christ through prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments which He instituted, are the thoughts, words, desires and actions which are in accordance with all His teachings and done out of love God for God.
Jesus demands that we have faith in him as a first prerequisite to sharing in his love. Faith brings us out of darkness into the light, and sets us on the road to salvation. “He who does not believe is condemned already” (v. 18).
- “The words of Christ are at once words of judgment and grace, of life and death. For it is only by putting to death that which is old that we can come to newness of life. Now, although this refers primarily to people, it is also true of various worldly goods which bear the mark both of man’s sin and the blessing of God… No one is freed from sin by himself or by his own efforts, no one is raised above himself or completely delivered from his own weakness, solitude or slavery; all have need of Christ, who is the model, master, liberator, saviour, and giver of life. Even in the secular history of mankind the Gospel has acted as a leaven in the interests of liberty and progress, and it always offers itself as a leaven with regard to brotherhood, unity and peace” (Vatican II, Ad gentes, 8).
O God, who through your Word reconcile in a wonderful way the human race to yourself, grant that the Christian people, we pray, may hasten with prompt devotion and eager faith toward the solemn celebrations to come. Collect prayer.