Homily – 4th Sunday in Lent

Msgr. LoPinto:

Jesus begins this conversation with Nicodemus, making reference to an experience of the people as they journey through the desert. They were very distrustful of God and they complained to Moses about the fact that they were missing some of the enjoyments that they had in Egypt.

And they kept saying to Moses, has God has you, have you led us out here into the desert so that we might die. But God becomes, according to the story, God becomes angry with the people. And as he becomes angry with them, they begin to be exposed to seraph serpents, serpent that carry a death with them if they bite and many die.

And so they come to Moses and they confess that they have done wrong. And they say to Moses, Please ask God to spare us. And God says to Moses, Take your stuff and make the image of the serpent on the staff and raise it up. And anyone who looks at it will be saved in a sense, by following the instruction.

They will be expressing their trust in God’s Word. But Jesus uses that example for the purpose of introducing the fact that He himself will be lifted up in the sense he predicts the cross. But what you also see in all of the stories, particularly in the first one, the people are in darkness. They are exiled into Babylonia. And in Babylonia they have suffered much.

They have lost Jerusalem, which was the center of their life. They lost the temple. It was destroyed by the conquerors and they again have that sense of being in darkness. But God intervenes. The Babylonians are overcome by a seer, by Cyrus and the Phoenicians, and the first thing that Cyrus does is say he frees the people. He tells them, go back, go back to Jerusalem and rebuild your temple.

And he tells the people to provide them with all the resources they would need in order to rebuild the temple to once again establish the presence of God in their midst. Symbolism is the symbolism of mercy. God’s mercy always intervenes to bring us out of the darkness into the light. And the light is the light of salvation. It’s the light of God’s love being manifested to us.

And so you see how Jesus uses that image to add and relate it to himself. So he will be lifted up. And as he is lifted up, those who look to the cross will see they’re not the defeat, but the victory of God, for they will see they’re the door through which we will pass in order that we might share in the gift of God’s life.

It is a very rich symbol, very much a part of John’s gospel. If you read the entire John’s gospel, you will find that theme of light and darkness, the light overcoming darkness is a continual presence. But you might ask, Well, how does that relate to us today? Well, whether we want to deal with reality or not, we are living in darkness.

The world is in chaos. Many are beginning to refer to the situation in which we’re living as the first stages of World War Three four In so many parts of the world, people in darkness have taken leadership and have brought that leadership into an experience of darkness, fought great crowds of people Ukraine, Gaza, Haiti, Sudan, the Congo. And the list goes on and on and on.

The darkness is all around. The darkness has an effect. We can become depressed. We can become blind in the sense of we close our eyes, not seeing what’s there. But then we go to the Scripture and the scripture. As I say, John has this darkness and light and how God’s mercy is the sign of the light bringing salvation.

You might say, Well, what can I do? Well, you remember your baptism. Remember in your baptism, which is one of the central themes of Lent, calling us to recall and understand better the gift of our baptism. Remember that we have been incorporated into the light of Christ. We are part of Jesus’s life because we were given the Spirit to be at one with the father, and as we have brought it, been brought into that reality.

When we stand in the world of darkness, we are called to bring the light. One of the ways that you can bring the light today is in the second collection, which is for Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Relief Services, which is an American and United States Catholic Organization, is present on the ground in all of these critical places where there is darkness and they are there trying to bring the light, the mercy of God into the lives of the suffering people.

But they need our support to assist them in this very critical work at this very critical time. And so they come asking for our support, our support, because they know that we’re not picking up and getting on a plane later today to go to the Ukraine or to go to Haiti or to go to Gaza or any of these places.

But what we can do is we can send our selves to the gifts that we make in the second collection today for Catholic Relief Services. It’s our way of saying we are with you in being the light in the midst of these dark situations, we will give you of ourselves that we can support you and allow you to do the work that you do, which is the work of feeding, the work of ministering, the work of healing, all of which are great expressions of the light of God, reaching into the darkness of the moment in which our sisters and brothers are living.

And so as we listen to the Scripture today, the message is clear: be the light, help break the darkness.