FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (B)
By Rev. Fr.Allen Baclor Abadines
First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:14-17a,19-23
Responsorial Psalm: Let my tongue cling to my mouth if I do not remember you!
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10
Gospel: John 3:14-21
GOSPEL: John 3:14-21
Jesus said to Nicodemus:”Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life,
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned, but the one who does not believe is condemned already; for not having believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
“And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ
In today’s Gospel text, we encountered a very interesting figure in the person of Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a teacher and held a very important position among religious leaders. Most of the religious leaders hated Jesus so much. Probably, they were jealous because of Jesus’ growing popularity among the people. People came to Jesus to listen to him. They came to Jesus to seek spiritual and physical healing. They came to Jesus because of his holiness. For sure, Nicodemus must have heard a lot about Jesus, and eventually, he became a silent admirer of him despite the growing opposition from among his associates. He wanted to know Jesus more…there was a growing desire in him to listen to Jesus about God and His Kingdom. But he was afraid for his reputation and status as a Pharisee. He was afraid that his associates might condemn him. And so Nicodemus came to Jesus in secret under the cover of darkness of the night to avoid being seen. I am not really a fan of Nicodemus. For to me, if we really love Jesus and have faith in him then we should be courageous enough to come out in the open to profess our faith in him. Either we are for Jesus or are against him. Either we are for righteousness or for sin. Either we are in the light or we are in the dark. Either we are for the love of God or for the evil one. There should be nothing in between. Our love for Jesus should be complete.But one thing good about Nicodemus was that at least he still approached Jesus and he listened to him. Despite his fears, he still sought Jesus.
The concept of a loving and a forgiving God was not easy for the Jewish people to comprehend. God for them is the God of the law. That God was a God who will judge and will give punishment to the sinners. That God is angry and unforgiving of the unrighteous. So Jesus took this opportunity to explain to Nicodemus, that he may be enlightened and may have a different concept of who God really is. He said,”Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
In other words, Jesus in today’s Gospel was telling Nicodemus and us, how great is the love of God for us. God loves and saves us. We may not be worthy of His love …it is actually a privilege gained through pure grace and not on merit. Because of this love that Jesus allowed himself to be lifted up as Moses lifted a bronze serpent so that all those bitten by the deadly serpent of sin might look up to him for healing and redemption. Jesus imparts on us that God is interested more about man’s salvation rather than condemnation. While reflecting on today’s Gospel message, it feels to me that Jesus was like telling me personally – “I love you no matter what. I am not here to punish you nor to judge you. I am here to save you and offer you, love. All I ask of you is to remain in my love.”
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. Laetare means to rejoice. We rejoice in the fact that God loves us. This is precisely the message of this Sunday’s liturgy – it’s LOVE! If we pondered deeply in the readings of today, the first reading (2 Chronicles), the second reading (Ephesians), and the Gospel, they shared something in common. It is just like reading a love letter from God. Do we really know how much God loves us? Do we really know how lavishly God wants to bestow his love upon us? God loves us so much that this love leads him to even sacrifice his only-begotten Son. Real love always involved sacrifice. We would know how deep is the love given by what it cost him. Jesus has proven the depth of his love of the Father and mankind for being obedient even unto death. John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus further said – You are my friends. And he stretched out his hands and died on the cross.
Having realized the depth of God’s love, it should lead us to grow in our love of God and our fellowmen, It should lead us to a more profound faith in him. That we should learn to love God deeply and to love our fellowmen sincerely.
An old priest was about to retire, and in his farewell party, a parishioner asked him this question. “Father, in your ministry as a priest, you have delivered countless of homilies. I should say, I don’t remember any of them. Would you give me your most important message that I should remember?” And the priest said, “You may not remember any of my words, it’s alright. But this I ask you not to forget – that You are loved! You are loved unconditionally by a greater love than you can ever imagine. God loves you now and forever. What should be your response to this love?”