Lectio Divina for 3/14/21, Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “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.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 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. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in 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.”
Christ is foreshadowing his crucifixion here, but his entire ministry--including his death--is a healing ministry. Just as people who looked upon the serpent in the desert were healed, all who look upon--or believe in--Christ are healed. What men and the devil meant for evil, God uses for good. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thereby bringing sin into the world. God later uses the serpent as a symbol of salvation. Christ becomes the fruit of the Tree of Life, which had been guarded since the Fall. His body brings eternal life, and the tree on which he hung--while meant for evil by his executioners--becomes the mechanism through which he offers healing and life to the world.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
This verse is so well-known for the way it shows the saving power of God, that people often ignore the criteria Christ mentions in order to have eternal life. The word “believe” is not just a mere formality. It is the condition. St. James said “Faith without works is dead.” Christ is giving a formula for success in the same way a parent would tell his or her child how to achieve success in anything. Once a gift is given, it needs to be used. A father may say to his son. “I love you so much that I am giving you my guitar, so that if you practice every day you will become a great guitar player.” Or, “I love you so much that I’m giving you the football my dad gave me, so if you practice throwing it every day you will become a great quarterback.” Parents could buy the most expensive equipment or tutoring in an attempt to get their child to learn something, but practice and willingness on their part is still necessary. For salvation though, believing in Christ is not the same as simply believing that one day you’ll be a great guitar player. Believing is doing, and one can argue it’s the same with all other aspirations as well. I can believe I am a writer all I want, but if that belief does not lead to me actually writing then my belief is pointless. What does it mean to believe in Christ? He said we know a tree by the fruit it bears. We can claim to have faith in Christ, but if that faith does not bear fruit in our life that’s a good indication that we are not putting our faith into action.
“the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”
When we leave God out of human affairs, we are not only leaving out religion. We cut ourselves off from our source of light and Truth. When we cut ourselves off from Truth, the person, we end up creating our own truth based on darkened human understanding. When Egypt refused to listen to God, he cut the Egyptians off from light and left them in darkness for three days (Exodus 10:21–23). The Light is the Truth. God’s word is a lamp to guide our feet (Psalm 119:105). God’s word is truth, and the Word is Jesus. Jesus lights the way with his word, the Bible. All the titles given to Christ shed light upon his salvific qualities. Through sin our minds have been darkened, but Christ comes and opens our eyes. By his life, death, and resurrection he brings us to new life. By his very presence among us, he offers us salvation. His efficacious nature satisfies our need for salvation like water quenches a fire’s thirst.
“But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
When we desire truth more than our own understanding, we are willing to have our evil deeds exposed. We are willing to, for example, go to confession or apologize to someone, because reconciling ourselves to the Truth is more important to us than protecting our own ego. We are dust and to dust we will return. Christ is bathed in light, as we see in the Transfiguration. He invites us to share in this glory, and to share in eternal life if we just believe in him. How foolish we could be to hold onto our own ways instead.
Dear Lord, we are open to the Light. You did not come into the world to condemn us, but to offer us salvation. Fill us with the gift of faith so that we may believe in you and be led to eternal life by the Way, your Son Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, Amen.
Inheriting eternal life is simple but not easy. Many times, believing in Christ requires that we simply get out of our own way, which can be hard. With God, all things are possible. But we have to listen so that he may work his wonders in our life. What is God telling you today as you listen to him? How is he calling you to deeper faith?
David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.
Click Here to Buy
Click Here to Buy