SUNDAY, FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23 It was because of their sins that God allowed his people to be exiled to Babylon. But his mercy is seen in their home-coming.
Reading 2: Eph 2:4-10 St. Paul gives the theology of redemption: It is not through our own efforts that we are saved but through the love and mercy of God. This is not your own doing; it is God’s gift.
Gospel: Jn 3:14-21 John speaks about the Father’s great love for us. This love is so great that he sent his Son into our world, not to condemn us, but to save us and to be the light of our lives.
THE CROSS – SYMBOL OF GOD’S LOVE
The first reading from the second book of Chronicles, is the final portion of the promising but tragic history of Israel, one abounding with promises and fresh starts. The history of Israel is composed with the background theological idea that fidelity to the commandments brought prosperity, while a healing punishment was an inevitable consequence of unfaithfulness to the covenant and desertion of the Lord. The historian recalls the final disaster of exile to Babylon, and the return of the renewed Israel to the Holy City to rebuild the Temple.
The repeated infidelity of Israel is aptly complimented by Paul’s assertion, that salvation is a fruit of grace. Here, grace does not mean a substance poured into our souls to provide some sort of salvific energy; it refers to the unmerited favour and choice of God. It is the fruit of a personal relationship, rather than a material or spiritual gift. God has smiled on each of us and invited us into a relationship, a friendship with him. In the light of this gift of friendship, we are strengthened and encouraged to serve him, so that this relationship becomes an ever stronger and more important element in our lives. God shows us his love and we respond. Hence, he shows us even greater love. But the greatest gift of all, is his son and the salvation he brought; it is the new life won for us by Christ.
The theme of God’s love manifested in Christ, runs through the Gospel passage today, which records what God has done in order to save, and not condemn, humanity. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”. God does not rule out the sacrifice of his only son and the indispensability of the cross. Three times in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of the need of “the Son of Man lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert”.
In the book of Numbers (Ch. 21), Israel witnessed mysterious deaths in their camp as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses goes to consult the Lord, and learns that the people have fallen prey to the worship of the god of fertility, moulded in the image of a serpent. The Lord asks Moses to put up an image of a serpent on a pole as a sign of realization for the people of Israel. Anyone who looked at the pole realized that the cause of death in the camp was because they were bitten by the serpent of infidelity and idol worship. When they had cast out the idols, that they had bought from the market and secretly enthroned in their own tents, the saving grace of God was once again offered to them.
The cross was to serve as the ultimate sign, a sign that would bring in a double realization – that it is the sin of humanity that has put God’s son on the cross; and that God is so loving that he was ready to sacrifice his only son on the cross in order to save humanity. God’s love for the humanity is very personal as God is interested in the welfare and salvation of every individual. The cross is as much a reminder of our sinfulness, as it is a testament and symbol of God’s immense and unconditional love for us. Itis a mirror in which we see the sincerest reflection of ourselves, just as we see the truest reflection of God’s love. It is the scale by which we measure our unworthiness, just as we encounter the immeasurable love of God. It is the instrument by which we are called to repentance, just as we are offered the grace of salvation and the gift of eternal life.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 137:1-6 O let my tongue cleave to my palate, if I remember you not.
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