Crucifix in the choir loft of Jerónimos Monastery (Lisboa, Portugal)

NO GOOD WORK IS TRIVIAL – 11 March 2018, 4th Sunday Of Lent

2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21
Shiu Lan

Lent is a good time for us to reflect on the way we live. Are we living according to the teaching of Jesus and of His Church?

For those of us who profess to follow Jesus, we must not let worldly pleasures, successes and material things distract us from our gift of faith. This can be difficult at times and it is easy for us to lose focus on eternal life, especially when we live in a relatively affluent society where we have to make an effort to not let ourselves be immersed in consumerism. The throw-away culture in which all is disposable is corroding our society.  Even life itself has become disposable. Abortion and assisted suicide are legalized in our society. The aged and the sick are perceived by many people as a burden. They are seen as commodities reaching the end of their ‘shelf lives’.  Humans are degraded to become mere things, to be used and disposed of at will. The world around us is embracing the culture of death.

The Church’s invitation for us to spent Lent prayerfully through venerating the Way of the Cross and taking part in retreats is a reminder for us to live responsibly according to the teaching of Jesus and His Church that proclaims a culture of life and promises eternal life. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that the Church encourages us to receive during Lent, through the mandated fasting and abstinence, our hearts will be softened, our minds and spirits strengthened and our whole being invigorated and prepared so that we will not lose sight and hope of the eternal life that is to come.

St Paul told us that we who believe are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”.  As we re-live the Passion of Christ in Lent, let us respond to His love and sacrifice for us by making a special effort for good works. An act of kindness from each one of us may collectively contribute towards saving a baby from being aborted. Accompanying a family member, relative, friend or neighbor stricken with a devastating illness with tender love and care may enable them to find meaning in their suffering instead of harboring the thought of taking their own lives. No good works are too trivial to do,  for Jesus told us in this Sunday’s Gospel reading that “those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (John 3:21)

From there He will come to judge

Fr Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

John the evangelist speaks of a Nicodemus, a distinguished character among the Pharisees. He was perhaps a member of the great Sanhedrin, who, taking advantage of the darkness went to Jesus. He is in search of light and believes Jesus, the young rabbi from Nazareth can guide him. Later we find him debating with the leaders who were plotting to kill Jesus. He challenges, “does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” He will get a mocking response: “Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee” (Jn 7:51-52). Poor Nicodemus, too fair to be comfortable in that assembly of scoffers!

He will make his last appearance on Calvary, along with Joseph of Arimathea, to wrap the body of Jesus in bandages and lay it in the tomb (Jn 19:39-40).

Today’s passage is the last part of his first night-time conversation. Jesus recalls an incident that occurred during the exodus. In the desert, many Israelites had fallen victims of poisonous snakes. Moses turned to the Lord who had ordered him to make a bronze snake and to hoist it on a pole. Whoever, after being bitten, raised his eyes to the serpent, saved his life (Num 21:4-9). In remembrance of the event, in the temple of Jerusalem a bronze serpent was kept which, they said, was the one lifted up by Moses.

Jesus refers to this and prophecies: he will be lifted up on the cross and all those who behold him will save their lives. Surprised and shocked Nicodemus, listened in silence, unable to comprehend the meaning. In the light of the events of Easter, we are able to understand: to look at Jesus “lifted up” means “to believe in him,” keeping the eyes focused on the love that he has shown.

Today the snakes that poison our existence and put our lives off are pride, envy, resentment, and unruly passions. Only an eye turned to Him who was raised can be treated healed of the malady. One day—ensures the evangelist—”they shall look on him whom they have pierced” (19:37) and be saved.

Then we are invited to a theological meditation on the mission of the Son of man: God did not send him “to condemn the world; but that the world might be saved through him.”

Unlike Matthew, for John God’s judgment is not pronounced at the end of time, but today. In every choice that one makes, the Lord indicates what is right according to the wisdom of heaven and warns of the choices of death.

Translated by Fr John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Fr Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF

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