Mission Society of the Philippines



Jn 3:14-21

The gospel this Sunday leads us to reflect on the significance of Christ’s “lifting up” or self-donation on the Cross. Jesus anticipated his crucifixion and He likens his “lifting up” on the cross to that of Moses’ lifting up of the bronze serpent in the desert. In both instances, LIFE is being signified. On the one hand, when the “poisoned” Israelites looked at the bronze serpent, they did not die, but lived. On the other, Jesus’ self-donation on the cross gives everlasting life to believers. Thus, the cross signifies life, an eternal life.

Let us examine some important points presented in the gospel.

First, there is an emphasis in the gospel on faith. The verb “believe” has been used often in the gospel. For us Christians, faith is an important component in our life, and yet, it is something that people tend to neglect these days. Faith is something that we should nourish through our life since we first receive it at baptism, but unfortunately, this does not actually happen to most people. On the contrary, faith disappears when they grow older. However, for some, their living out of faith is seasonal. It is noticeable in the celebration of the sacraments, like baptism, communion, wedding, and burial. It can also be seen during “Simbang Gabi” and Christmas celebrations, during Ash Wednesday and Holy Week. Outside these seasons, we seldom find an expression of faith. People who have this kind of faith would never reach a mature faith.

Second, there is a strong correlation between faith and eternal life. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him (Son of Man) may have eternal life.” Faith in Jesus leads to salvation. We have been taught that through the cross, Jesus gave us life, an eternal life. This is one important part of our beliefs. He brought us salvation when he was “lifted up” on the cross. But, how appealing is salvation for modern people? In our world full of the so-called “self-made” people, the question of God and salvation becomes insignificant to them. If one thinks of himself as God, because of the resources and power he has, then he could not feel that he is in need of salvation. If a person no longer feels that he is sinning or who does not recognize the reality called sin, then salvation cannot be a personal concern. This could be a sad effect if people do not have anymore faith in Jesus. Salvation is no longer hoped for.

Third, since we have been given life by Jesus through the cross, we must bring this life to the world and to others. It is something imperative, especially now that the world promotes the so-called “culture of death.” There are unending wars in the Middle East, as well as the rampant practice of abortion and euthanasia. We are in a sad and depressing situation brought about by this culture of death. We, Christians, are called to counter this. We need to present an alternative to this situation, which is the culture of life. We need to “uplift” the situation, in other words. We need to lift up the “bronze serpent” in our midst so that more people will live. This new culture finds its basis on God’s love and mercy and for us.

If we do this, we can find the significance of faith in our life. We would realize that indeed faith brings life to this spiritually “dying” world. A few days ago, news had it that the attendance at Masses these days has significantly increased. Analysts attribute the increase of worshipers to the global financial crisis. In these trying times, more people turn to God for help. It is proper, and perhaps, symbolic that this “coming back” to God happens during this season of Lent, the spirit of which is something penitential. We can only hope that these people can renew their faith in God who gives us life.

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