My brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, our loving and merciful God has compassion for His people! During the First Reading from the Second Book of Chronicles [2 Chr. 36:14-17, 19-23] that is found in the Old Testament, we heard of the compassion and patience of the Lord God. The Lord God does not wish for any to perish because of their disobedience to His righteousness.
Having compassion on His people and love for His holy House that He consecrated in Jerusalem, the Lord God tolerated with patience the sins of His people. God communicated with His people by sending many prophets as messengers to them so they would turn away from their sins. In their wickedness, the people despised the Words of God and scoffed at His prophets. Finally, the wrath of God struck the people. God raised a great army through the king of the Chaldeans. Everything was destroyed, the House of God, the walls of Jerusalem, the palaces and its precious vessels. And those who escaped the sword, they were taken into exile in Babylon as servants to the king of the Chaldeans and his sons.
Considering the punishment that fell upon God's people who had turned away from Him, God did not abandon them. He only disciplined them for a little while to show them how helpless they were without His Divine intervention and protection.
When king Cyrus of Persia came into power, he was inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to call the children of God to return to the holy city of Jerusalem to rebuilt the House of Yahweh. The punishment of God had come to its end.
In this Lenten Season, the First Reading holds a spiritual message for us. How often do we come to realize that are lives are void of the inner joy and peace of the Lord Jesus? Is it not because we too have set the Lord aside so we can keep our worldly minds busy with our fame, pleasures, wealth, possessions, entertainment, sports, television, and all the goodies of the world? How much time do we really dedicate towards our spiritual growth so that we may worship the Lord in spirit as we have been called to do?
If we turn away from the Lord, He will not abandon us. At the same time, He will let us go our own way to use that opportunity to discipline us so we may come to the realization that we too are helpless without His Divine Providence. And, when we wake up from our blindness, the Lord will be there to once more bless us with His inner joy and peace.
During these days when a dark cloud has set itself over our world, threatening to destroy millions of lives, can we associate this age of darkness to our failure of maintaining the righteousness of God? Is it not true that while many claim to be Catholics, even politicians, their morals leave much to be desired? Is it not true that their position on abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, divorce, etc... oppose the teachings of the Catholic Church? Is it not also true that many of our Church leaders have permitted themselves to fall to every kind of sins of the flesh, causing a scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in many nations? Indeed, have we failed to maintain God's righteousness? Is God punishing the world because of the sins of His people who have become indifferent to true righteousness?
Just how much does the Lord God love us? During the Second Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, [Ephes. 2:4-10] we heard that God is rich in mercy. While mankind was dead through its trespasses by walking in the darkness of the worldly ways, He gave it life through Christ. Through His grace, those who believe have been saved.
God continuously showers His grace upon His people to show them His compassion. He knows that without Christ, there is no hope. Humans are helpless sheep before raging wolves.
If we are saved by the grace of God, it is not by our own doing. There is nothing that we can do to secure our salvation. While the scientists have unsuccessfully tried to create a youth formula to stop the aging process, they have yet to find a way to secure the eternal life of the soul in the Kingdom of God. How can one secure the new birth that is absolutely necessary for eternal life in the Kingdom of God when what is spiritual cannot be seen or touched? It is impossible! Those who experience spiritual death by rejecting the grace of God, they will inherit eternal damnation. Eternal life in the beatific vision of God can only come to us by the grace of God. To inherit God's gift of salvation, we do not need the scientists! We need the gift of the grace of God, faith in Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism!
Why is God giving us the free gift of salvation in His eternal Kingdom? It is because we have been created through Jesus to do good works by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is because we have been called to shine in the fruit of the Holy Spirit as holy children who are worthy of the grace of God.
During today's Gospel Reading, [Jn. 3:14-21] we heard of the moment when Jesus said to Nicodemus, '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] In this Biblical passage, Jesus was referring to an event that occurred in the days of the Old Testament.
In the days of Moses, the people of God had lost their patience and spoke against God and Moses. They constantly complained, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food or water, and we detest this miserable food!" [Num. 21:5] To punish the ungrateful people for having spoken against Him, God sent poisonous snakes. Many Israelites were bitten and died. When the people repented and acknowledged that they had wrongly spoken again the Lord God and Moses, they asked Moses to pray to the Lord to take away the poisonous serpents. Following this, God instructed Moses to make a metal snake and to put it on a pole so that anyone who was bitten could look at it and be healed.
This event was prophetic in nature. It represented what was to come in the days of the ministry of the Lord Jesus on earth. The metal snake was an image of Christ. As the metal snake was raised and put on the pole, Jesus was also raised and nailed to the Holy Cross.
During the days of Moses, those who were bitten by the serpent, they died. Equally today, those who allow themselves to be bitten (seduced), by the serpent who is Satan, they shall also endure spiritual death by being eternally condemned into Hell. But, as those who looked up to the metal snake on the pole were healed, today, we also are healed when we set our eyes on Christ. Our living faith in the Lord Jesus is our assurance of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
In the next passage from today's Gospel Reading, Jesus said, "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
In other words, Jesus did not come to punish you - He came to save you through Him! He did not come to judge you - He came to save you through Him! Jesus came to show you the way, the truth and the life so you may walk in the Light.
Jesus is the Light. He is the only way! He is the only Truth! He is the only Life! There are none other but Jesus who can save us by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through our living faith in Christ, we have the assurance of salvation.
What is living faith in Christ? It is walking according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is walking according to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, teachings that have been divinely handed down to the Church through apostolic succession. When we walk according to the teachings of Christ and the Holy Catholic Church that He has instituted on earth, we are walking in the Light. If we oppose these teachings, we oppose the Light, Christ Himself. If we oppose these teachings, we are walking in the darkness. We cannot walk in both at the same time, the Light and the darkness; we must choose one way and reject the other.
During this time of Lent, let us review our hearts to determine where we stand. Are we walking in the Light of God? Are we walking in the darkness? Are we walking half and half, one foot in the Light and one foot in the darkness? Our eternal life and salvation depends entirely on our living faith that calls us to look up to Jesus on the Holy Cross. Our salvation and eternal happiness require that we give ourselves entirely to Christ, having both feet in the Light.
God has compassion on His people and does not want any of us to be lost. If we have not been completely faithful to the Light of Christ or if we have shipwrecked along our spiritual journey, let us sincerely repent from our sins. Let us receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation so we may once more receive the righteousness of God that we enjoyed when we received the Sacrament of Baptism. Then, let us receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, so we may have the inner joy and peace of Christ in our hearts.