Grace to you!
If you’ve ever witnessed the depressing reality of pain and other dark experiences of life, Lent could be for you a surprising ray of hope, of courage and strength.
Two realities are tied in Lent—the cross and the glory. It is not only the cross. It is the cross of glory. Surprised that in the fourth week of Lent, the mid of the Lenten journey, we celebrate a day of Joy called Laetare Sunday.
Laetare means rejoice. It is taken from the first line of the introit (an opening psalm/antiphon for Fourth Sunday of Lent Eucharistic celebration) which says, “Laetare Jerusalem…”—"Rejoice Jerusalem…” (Is 66:10-11). We rejoice because we know that locked in the spectacle of the cross is the radiance of glory.
The beautiful conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, chapter three, gives us an example of this truth. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “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).
Further the Lord says, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (Jn 3: 17-18).
In these two words from the Word of God, Christ, are great lessons. It is the Christ sent from heaven who is lifted up for our victory. Some theologians would see in the “one sent” Divine Revelation, of glory, from above, (what some call a descending Christology). Some theologians will also see in the one lifted up at the crucifixion, so that we can relate to the pains and suffering of the messiah and find salvation, the revelation of glory from below (what some call an ascending Christology).
Whether from above or from below, in Christ is our victory. He comes so we can be lifted to glory. He is lifted on the Cross so that our wounds are healed. “By his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law and a member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, comes to Jesus, the Word of God, for answers to his quest for salvation. He acknowledges that there is something unique about Jesus, because, as he says: “no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (Jn 3:2).
Nicodemus is indeed an honest man. He realizes that his education alone is insufficient to grasp the true meaning of life and salvation. Whatever human skills we’ve acquired are not close to true victory, salvation. He was honestly searching for answers to his deep concerns regarding salvation. His name, Nicodemus, though of Greek root, which means “the victory people” or “the people’s victory” strikes me as a I go through the profound words the Lord speaks to him.
There is something in names. Sometimes, they are parallels to events or contexts and reveal so much.
If one were to see in the name of Nicodemus something to reflect on, it could read like this: The Lord shows the way of victory and grants victory to anyone who desires it. Victory is being born again, immersion into Christ, through baptism. It’s being configured into the identity of the Trinity.
The Son of Man (Christ) is the fulfilment of the symbol of Moses lifting up the serpent in the Old Testament, so that anyone beaten by the venom of evil could look up to the one who is crucified, Christ, and be saved.
The one, the Son, who is lifted up for our salvation, is the one God sent from heaven to us, not to condemn the world but “that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
All these because of the love of God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
Here we have it: Victory is being born in God. It’s looking up in faith to the one on the Cross. Life in the one crucified is victory. Faith is access to this life.
Praying that during this fourth week of Lent, we look up to the Crucified Christ in faith; knowing that the one on the wood of the cross, is our glory. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Fourth Week of Lent B: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:6-10; John 3:14-21]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.