Homily for the fourth Sunday of Lent - Year B - Jn. 3:14-21


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus said: '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 Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned ; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.


"For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."





Homily:


"Jesus said: '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.' "


In this Sunday's gospel, only verses 14 and 15 are the Lord's words. The other verses are comments made by Saint John, who, based on other words of Jesus, summarizes, as he often does, in a few very dense sentences the whole of the economy of salvation in Jesus Christ.


Jesus speaks here of the bronze snake set up by Moses on a pole in the desert (cf. Numbers 21:9). The Hebrews had murmured against God and Moses. The Lord then sent a multitude of venomous snakes into the various encampments. As soon as the snakes appeared, the Hebrews begged Moses to intervene on their behalf with the Lord in order that he might stop sending them this punishment. Moses was commanded by the Lord to lift up, in the sight of all the people, a snake made of bronze. Whoever looked at the bronze snake was healed of any snakebites they had received.


This is, of course, a very beautiful image of the Savior, who was lifted up off the ground on the wood of the Cross in order to be the One to whom all eyes must turn to find healing for the soul, and even for the body. "They shall look on him whom they have pierced." (Jn. 19:37 - Zach. 12:10) From the merciful Heart of Jesus comes an infinite abundance of graces for the healing of all our ills, both spiritual and corporeal. But this healing does not take place if we do not want it and desire it with all our heart: just as the Hebrews needed to look at the bronze snake with the eyes of the body in order to be healed of their snakebites, in the same way, we must cast a glance of faith and love from the deepest part of ourselves if we wish to be cured of the disease of sin which eats away at our soul. "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 Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned ; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."


"God is love," wrote Saint John (1 Jn. 4:16). And in this infinite and merciful Love, the Father sent his own Son to save all the men and women who have ever lived on earth, from the creation of the world until the end of time. We know that everyone can be saved. But we also know that, in fact, not all will be saved. There are some - alas! - who will be condemned to an eternal hell. And we also know - and this is the height of the creature's ingratitude towards its Creator - that it is the many who will be condemned, and only the few will be saved: "Many are called, but few are chosen." (Mt. 22:14)


Man is always responsible for his salvation. Each man, each woman who comes into the world has a conscience, and insofar as one is able to make normal use of it, one is fully responsible for one's acts, including the act of always remaining conscious of one's acts, except for when it is necessary to take one's daily rest and surrender one's body to sleep. Any kind of intoxication, any kind of drug or narcotic which would perturb one's state of consciousness must be excluded from the life of any man worthy of the name. The conscience is indeed so significant that it constitutes the very foundation of human dignity. This is so true that, even in places where the Gospel has not been preached and taught, there are, in numbers that God alone knows, men and women who live in the grace of God, a grace which they have merited through fidelity to their own conscience and through obedience to the natural law imprinted upon the heart of every human being.


How great is the Love of our God! How immense is the mercy of the Heart of Jesus! How powerful is the source of salvation the Creator has placed in the depths of our own heart! But - alas! - the first sin, the original sin, which is transmitted from generation to generation, greatly opposes all of this salvific power... From the beginning of humanity, a choice was offered to man by God: a choice between the Creator and the creation. It could not be otherwise: God is Love, and Love requires freedom. Thus, the first man was free to love God, his Creator, or to prefer to him a creature: the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, placed at the center of the Garden of Eden. (cf. Gn. 3)


Even after the original sin, this choice remains: it is the choice which each man or woman makes when he or she either believes or does not believe in the Word of God, the incarnated Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. God had given a command to Adam: it was necessary for him to believe in the word of God in order for him to remain forever in the friendship of the Lord. Similarly, God gives us a command: to believe in the Word who is his Son and to do all that he says. "This is my beloved Son ; with whom I am well pleased ; listen to him." (Mt. 17:5) "Do whatever he tells you." (Jn. 2:5) Our salvation lies in obedience to the Son of God, in the "obedience of faith" of which Saint Paul speaks. (Rm. 1:5)


"For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."


He who has a good conscience does not reproach himself, because he knows that his works are good, he knows that he has acted properly. He who believes in the Word of God is one with this same Word, because, through faith, this Word has in a way become his own. Or rather, it is the man himself who has become in a way a word of God, a child of God like the Word, a son in the Only son, a "partaker of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) Through faith, man can accomplish his own works in God himself: turning the eyes of his believer's soul towards the Lord, just like the Hebrews who turned their eyes towards the bronze snake, the believer in Christ plunges, with his Mother the Church, into the depth of the Heart of God, in order to live there a divine and human life increasingly more perfect and more authentic! Truly, through Mary and with Her, and with the Church, he who does what is true goes to the light and it becomes manifest that his works are done in God!