22 March 2009

OBRA MAESTRA

4th Sunday of Lent
Eph 2:4-10/Jn 3:14-21

The scene we have in the gospel today is rather rare. Quite often, when Jesus and the Pharisees meet, they clash. But today, Jesus and a Pharisee are calmly engaged in a theological exchange. Like a real disciple, the Pharisee listens intently to Jesus and asks Him sincere questions. The Pharisee’s name is Nicodemus, indeed a disciple of Jesus. He is one of the secret disciples of Jesus among the Pharisees.

It is evening as the two converse with each other. In the middle of the dark, Nicodemus searches and struggles to understand the Light of the world, Jesus Himself. To him Jesus tells the summary of the Good News: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” As exegetes claim, even if all the pages of the Bible were burnt, we still have the entire gospel in this sixteenth verse of John chapter thirteen.

God loves us not because of the cross. Rather, God loves us so much that is why there is the cross. Thus, the cross is not the cause, but the effect of God’s prodigal love for us. With or without the cross, God loves us. The cross is never a hindrance for God to love us, even if He who dies on the cross is His only begotten Son. Indeed, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, “On the cross we see the mad love of God.” Truly, God loves us more than we know.
Today’s gospel carries a message of intense hope: hope that if we truly believe that God loves us so much, we would certainly strive to rise from the darkness we are in. As Jesus explains to Nicodemus the darkness that engulfs them, light explodes from the truth of God’s love that is being offered from the cross – even from the cross – to each of us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Whatever happens, we will never embrace the dark; the Light embraces us from the cross.

When the Light of the world was born, all darkness was vanquished. The truth about all things has been revealed. Under true light, there is no denying, no hiding, no pretending; everything is cystral clear: white is white, black is black, red is red, green is always green. Such is the nature of light: it reveals the truth.

But the ugly loves the dark. For when the ugly goes unto the light, its ugliness is seen by all. The ugly tends to hide and to be ashamed. That is why, unpleasant traits are painstakingly being hidden and unpleasant behavior is always a cause for shame.

But you and I are not ugly. God creates only beauty. And we are the crowning glory of God’s creation. We are beautiful, and we do not fit in the dark. We fit in the light for we are God’s obra maestra. This is what St. Paul the Apostle says in the second reading today: “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning He had meant us to live it.”

Easier said than done. Sweet to hear but hard to believe in. There are many who find it difficult to think that indeed they are God’s obra maestra, thinking that they are blunders and failures in God’s otherwise grand creation. Perhaps, we ourselves are tempted to think that way, too. We know our selves. We know our ugliness. And truly, our mistakes, weaknesses, and sins can overwhelm us sometimes. But this is the truth: We do not know our selves the way God knows us; and while we are disturbed by our ugliness, God focuses on our real beauty instead. For Him, we are simply priceless.

But, in life, many people keep on running away, fleeing, and hiding, afraid of their own shadow, only to realize at some point that the antidote to their fear is within their power: To conquer one’s shadow, one simply has to face the light. Face the light and see the beauty within. Face THE Light – Jesus the Christ – and see your real beauty. In Him who, crucified on the cross, has no beauty in Him, we are enlightened about how beautiful and priceless we are for God. Face the Light and shed the same Light upon those who see nothing in themselves but ugliness and filth.

The darkness engulfing us may conceal our real beauty, but the Light who came into the world reveals the truth about our selves: We are God’s work of art!

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