Day 26: 4th Sunday of Lent

THE CROSS AND THE CROWN

1. Document: Holy Scripture Readings 1.1. First Reading: The Second Book of Chronicles 36: 14-17,19-23 1.2. Second Reading: The Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians 2: 4-10 1.3. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St John 3: 14-21 1.4. Simple Comment: Something wonderfully strange happened in the time of the Babylonian exile. King Cyrus, Israel’s persecutor and conqueror, received God’s inspiration and, to everyone’s surprise, issued the decree to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. He thus sent back the exiles to their land. Similarly, Jesus cites how a wonderful thing will happen through his being lifted up on the Cross. It is through this ignominious sign of condemnation that the Father will work out man’s salvation as well as Jesus’ own glorification – when he is lifted up (a second time!) from the dead. St Paul hails this Christ-event as the triumph of God’s richness of mercy and love.

2. Monument: Jesus Being Lifted Up in Golgotha 2.1. Nicodemus a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin seeks the truth by seeking Jesus in the night. While he treasures the truth and finds in Jesus its source he was not yet ready to face the consequences of his quest before his own group of Pharisees. He steals into the night; yet Jesus welcomes his still-weak faith. According to a recent research we know that Nicodemus is the same rich man called Nakidmon ben Gurion from Galilee. During the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70, together with two other rich families, he offered to take it upon himself to provide food for the entire population. 2.2. The truth that Jesus unveils to Nicodemus refers to his Hour – the appointed time long ago planned by the Father. It is a wondrous moment that can only happen because it is the work of the wondrous God: to defeat death through submitting to death itself. It recalls the event in the desert when the people of God were stung by the poisonous serpents and yet their salvation from death came from the bronze serpent lifted by Moses on his staff! Jesus’ double lifting up on the cross and on the resurrection is infinitely a more wondrous event incomparable to the experience of the desert.

3. Lenten Reflection 3.1. Death to life is a law established by the Creator as shown in the necessary death of the seed buried in the ground in order that it may fructify into a hundredfold. This is confirmed all the better by the death of God’s only Son – a seeming absurdity and contradiction given the nature of the Divine and its transcendence over anything temporal and, more so, terminal. 3.2. In Jesus now lies our hope and blessing. His pattern of life-death-eternal life becomes our own trademark – the sign that indelibly marks us who believe in him. This can only be received by way of his infinite mercy and grace; for Jews it is a stumbling block and for Gentiles, an absurdity.

4. Contemporary Filipino Question: Some years back my ina-anak from Irvine CA sent me a video-clip. It is about a certain Jason McElwain, an autistic child from Greece Athena, Rochester NY, who made it to the news of Good Morning America, CNN and others. His is a true-to-life story of a person whom the Lord lifted up (Jason was literally lifted up by his schoolmates!) in a moment of basketball glory … Trivial!, you might say, but to me it makes today’s liturgy a thing of the present –the reality of the cross and resurrection happens to our very own day.