Gospel Reflection for Sunday March 14th 2021 The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Jesus is lifted up for all to see
In Jewish history Moses is a key figure. He led the people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. Before they reached the Promised Land they had to pass through the desert and this was not always an easy experience for them! While they made their way through the desert they encountered poisonous snakes. In the Book of Numbers we are told that ‘Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told Moses to take a snake and put it on a pole so that anyone who looked at the snake would be healed. Moses did what he was asked. Anyone who has been bitten looked at the snake and was healed.’ (21.7-9). These are the very words that the gospel today starts with as Jesus speaks to Nicodemus; ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.’ As those in desert looked at the serpent were healed and saved, now those who believe in Jesus when he is lifted up will be saved and have eternal life. This is a direct reference to the crucifixion, which we will witness and experience during Holy Week.
On Good Friday Jesus will be literally ‘lifted up’ as he is crucified. There is no escaping this reality. There can be no resurrection without crucifixion; there can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. We can’t have one without the other. But there is a wonderful message in both the second reading and the gospel today. Both tell us of the compassionate and tender love which God has for each of us. ‘God loves us with so much love, that he is generous with his mercy.’ This is repeated explicitly in the gospel; ‘God loves the world so much that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.’ Jesus came not to judge or condemn us, but so that through his life, death and resurrection we might be saved and have everlasting life. As we also read in John’s gospel, ‘I have come that you may life and life in all its fullness.’ (Jn.10.10). God offers us this freely and generously and the choice whether or not to accept it, is always, ours.
Wherever and however we experience and celebrate the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday this year, we are asked to spend time prayerfully with or in front of the crucifix. This can be difficult. When the words ‘cross’ or ‘crucifixion’ are mentioned, our first thoughts can be very negative; loss and pain or the absence of someone or something. However at the very heart of the cross is a power and that is positive and life-giving. When we look at Jesus ‘lifted up’ on the cross, it is to know and experience that we are loved despite of our weaknesses. The cross also asks us to see Jesus in a new way. To repeat these words from today’s first reading; ‘God loves us with so much love, that he is generous with his mercy.’ This love and mercy are shown and are visible in and through the person of Jesus when he is ‘lifted up.’ Painful and difficult as the sight of the cross is, it is God’s profound gesture of love for each of us personally. As we read in the gospel; ‘God loves the world so much that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.’
We have to stand at the cross before can experience the resurrection. What seems like failure to us is God’s way to offer us healing, forgiveness and eternal life. As our Oblate Rule tells us; ‘The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like Paul, ‘we preach Christ and him crucified.’ (1 Cor.2.2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too may seen in our body.’ (2.Cor.4.10)
– Br Michael Moore OMI
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