Jesus, our Saviour and beacon of hope

by Shiu Lan
Fourth Sunday of Lent

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Ephesians 2:4-10

John 3:14-21

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)