Jesus, our Saviour and beacon of hope

Fourth Sunday of Lent

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.” In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Ephesians 2:4-10

Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

John 3:14-21

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.

This is the second year of the pandemic, the second Lent in the pandemic that has plagued the world since early 2020. We seem to have done all we can; we follow government instructions to stay safe, to stay home, we have begun a new way of life and work and do things virtually. Yet we have not been able to put the threat of the virus behind us. Now that we have the vaccines, new strains of the virus have also appeared. It seems that the collective effort of the world’s brightest scientific minds cannot say for sure whether the pandemic can be defeated in the near future. Humanity is also experiencing crises in other areas as well, political tension, unrests and persecution; some countries are at the brink of war. Political differences are creating divides among the fellow citizens in communities, in the work place and even in families. People, including some of us, may feel restless and frustrated, and look for healing.

Look no further! This Sunday’s Mass readings provide the healing, solace and peace we long for. The gospel reading begins with the imagery of the bronze serpent that Moses lifts up in the wilderness, whoever have been bitten by the fiery serpents because of their sins will live if they look to the bronze serpent in search of God’s mercy (Ref. Num 21:4-9; Ignatius Bible Study P166). Jesus sees the bronze serpent as an image of his own Crucifixion on the Cross and the healing it will bring to a world darkened by sin and evilness. By His death on the Cross, Jesus brings us eternal life; not only we will live, but we will never die if we are steadfast in our faith in Him. 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” (Jn 3:14-15; Ref. IBS P166). God is doing this out of His love and infinite mercy for each one of us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”; “[He] did not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17).

Our redemption requires us to believe in Jesus. About this gift of faith, St. Paul explains in the second reading, it is “by grace [we] have been saved through faith, and this is not [our] own doing; it is the gift of God. This is not the results of works, so that no one may boast”, but “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:8-10). For those blessed with the gift of faith, our path in this world is quite clear, doing good works is our way of life because that is what we are “created in Christ Jesus for” (Ephesians 2:10).

We are mere mortals tinted with the darkness of sin. It is too easy to fall into temptation and sin again and again. While blessed with the gift of faith, it is still easy to lose hope with our own failures and sinfulness. At times when our own little world seems to have tumbled with difficulties and tribulations, we may fall into hopelessness. In this pandemic, the elderly, the homeless and the marginalised in society are the most vulnerable. They are more prone to despair and depression when their loneliness and isolation become unbearable.

Jesus Christ is our Saviour and beacon of hope. In this Lenten Sunday, let us pray for each other and for the most vulnerable with this prayer from Station Nine — Jesus falls for the third time — from “The Way of the Cross with Pope Francis”*,

O God, strength of those who hope in you,
You give peace to those who follow your teachings.
Sustain our staggering steps,
raise us when we fall through our unfaithfulness.
Pour the balm of consolation and the wine of hope on our wounds.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

*published 2021 by CNEWA Canada (a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support)

Posted: March 14, 2021

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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