Mediations for March are by Bishop Robert Llanos, Auxiliary Bishop of Port of Spain.
“We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.” This last sentence in today’s second reading appears to sum up the broad message of our salvation as celebrated in this weekend’s scripture texts. The reading from the second book of Chronicles chapter thirty six highlights the fact that the people of Israel broke covenant with God by “adding infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple”. When God in His mercy sent the messengers “they laughed at His prophets” and “despised His words”. They did all this whilst enjoying the blessings of the Temple of Jerusalem and living a peace filled life in Jerusalem. In other words they took from God’s hand His blessings and gifts whilst rebelling against His love. They broke covenant with God and as a consequence were exiled from life with God in Jerusalem. In the end God raises the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia to return the Jews to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of God.
This story in 2nd Chronicles is mirrored in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where we see that everyone who is dead through their sins and in exile, God brings to life in Christ. God loves us “with so much love” that He is “generous with His mercy” which we experience through His grace poured into our lives by the actions of Jesus. This salvation comes from grace through our faith in Christ Jesus. It is a gift from God just like when God roused the Spirit of Cyrus to return
the Jews from exile back to Jerusalem. It is an undeserved gift of love given by God and not because of anything we have done to earn it. But love offered is not always accepted. What Jesus offers in John 3:14 is much greater than a return to the Temple of Jerusalem, it is eternal life. Eternal life does not only refer to quantity i.e. length of time but most importantly the quality of life one comes to live through God himself dwelling in each of us who believe. Listen and believe Him and in Him.
When men and women refuse to listen, to believe and to accept God’s love then Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Man must be lifted up on the cross to be a sign of healing and reconciliation as with the serpent in the desert. This Cross upon which Jesus is lifted up however becomes the means through which He rises and ascends into Heaven. This is His victory over our sinfulness and exile. Now He is lifted up on the Cross in sadness, then He is lifted up in joy in His Resurrection and Ascension. We too are invited to move from the sadness and pain of sin to the joy of one who is liberated and healed by Christ Jesus. This is the invitation to all those to be baptized and initiated into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil and beyond. In John’s gospel this weekend, Nicodemus is a wealthy man and an official from the Temple in Jerusalem who is well educated. He wants to believe but his intellect and his wealth make it difficult for him to humble himself and follow Christ. This is why Jesus says that though the Light has come into the world men have shown that they prefer darkness to the light “but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light”. What Jesus offers Nicodemus He offers to all of us, that is, a powerful manifestation of His love, “a free gift to us in the beloved”, so that we might believe and have life to the fullest. If we choose to believe and to follow Jesus we must accept both the pain of the Cross and the joy of the Resurrection just as the Jews needed the Serpent on the standard lifted up in order to have the joy of reaching the Promised Land and a new life.
Father in Heaven in the midst of the distress, anxiety and pain caused by our sin in the world remind us of your love and generous mercy and that there is always a way through to freedom and joy.