17 March 2012

GOD’S MASTERPIECES

4th Sunday of Lent
Jn 3:14-21 (2 Chr 36:14-16,19-23 / Ps 137 / Eph 2:4-10)

We are God’s work of art.  We are masterpieces of His love.  Not only did He create us in His own image and likeness, but, as St. Paul the Apostle in the second reading today reminds us, God, who is rich in mercy, also restored us to life with Christ, raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavens because of His great love for us.  Moreover, in another letter of Paul, the Apostle asserts that God gave us Jesus, His only begotten Son, not when we were His friends but when we were yet His enemies (Cf. Rom 5:8-10).  Indeed, we are God’s labor of love.  With Christ Jesus as the Apex, we are the shining glory of His creation.

But our persistent sinful lifestyle changes all that, destroying not only His work of love that is our selves but the rest of creation as well.  There is hardly any living with Christ, being raised up with Him, and sitting with Him in the heavens in our constant sinning against Him and against one another.  Sin makes us ugly.  In sin, all is labor but no love.  While we are indeed supposed to be the shining glory of God’s creation, does sin not turn us instead into the ignominy of creation and the embarrassment of God?  It does!  And as we realize and accept our guilt, we are sincerely sorry, beating our breast – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – and covering our faces in shame.

God, however, does not delight in us being humiliated by our sins.  Likewise, He desires not our self-pity.  He hopes for our repentance and rejoices in our conversion, but He never wants us to live in guilt and shame for all eternity.  In Jesus, His Son, He has given us not only a Savior.  He gave us Light itself.  Sinners that we are, living in darkness, with the Psalmist we pray, “In You, Oh Lord, is the fountain of life; and in Your light we see light” (Ps 36:9).  That light is the Lord Himself, Jesus who is the Light of the world.

A Pharisee and, at the same time, an ally from the Sanhedrin, a religious-political senate of the Jews, visits Jesus in the Gospel today.  His name is Nicodemus.  His visit is nighttime.  Covered by darkness, Nicodemus meets THE Light.  A respectable teacher that he is, Nicodemus nonetheless fails to understand the Light, for how can one in the dark grasp the meaning of the light unless he steps out of his darkness and be enlightened.  Thus, Jesus, who is THE Light, enlightens him.  Showing Nicodemus the only way out of the darkness of sin, Jesus says the summary of the entire Bible: “…God so loved the word that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).  God’s love for us is the only way out of the darkness that we imprison our selves in by our persistent sinful lifestyle.  Jesus says further, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:17).  Clearly, THE Light comes not to humiliate us, much less, punish us, but to redeem us.  But we are not passive recipients of THE Light, for Jesus continues saying, “Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn 3:18).  THE Light comes but we must embrace it if we truly want to be freed from darkness.  I heard some people whisper to their dying loved ones, “Follow the light.”  But such an advise must followed by the living before by the dying.

Do we really follow THE Light?  Do we embrace THE Light?  But equally important to ask our selves: What kind of light is that which we follow and embrace?  Baka naman hindi si Jesus ang light na ‘yan.  Or are we what the verdict that Jesus mentions in the Gospel today describes: people prefer darkness to light because their works are evil (Cf. Jn 3:19)?  For, indeed, if we do enjoy doing evil why should we want to come to the light?  The light exposes our filth and strips us of all our hypocrisies.  Following and embracing THE  Light, who is Jesus Himself, means knowing the truth and being truthful; in other words, living the truth so that our works may be clearly seen as done in God (Cf. Jn 3:20-21).  Do we strive to know the truth?  Are we truthful?  Jesus is THE Truth as much as He is THE Light.

There is more than about God’s love in the Gospel today.  The same Gospel expresses God’s hope as well.  God, who, more than anything else, is a loving Father to us, hopes that if we really believe that He loves us more than we know we would come out from our chosen darkness.  Moreover, God hopes that, having stepped out of our darkness, we may come to know Him not only more but even better: that He is a loving God and not a punitive deity, a caring Father and not a detached Creator.  Dwelling in darkness causes us to mold God into our own image and likeness; thus, hugging the dark, we guess wildly what God is like.  On the contrary, living in the light forms us more into the image and likeness of God; thus, embraced by Jesus the Light, we truly become God’s priceless works of art, a labor of His love.

Many of us have a hard time imagining themselves as God’s masterpieces.  That is because they have not fully come out of their elected darkness.  Most of them, if not all, are afraid of the light, even if that light already means Jesus.  If some people are afraid of the dark, still some are afraid of the light.  Jesus assures you and I today that there is nothing to fear.  The purpose of the light is to enlighten, not to blind.  Jesus wants to take us out of the darkness of sin, let us allow Him to hold us by the hand and lead us unto a life renewed, a light re-kindled.

As the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia, was for the Israelites exiled in Babylon, so should Lent signal the end of our own exile in sin.  We are not meant for darkness.  We are destined for THE Light.  No one hides a masterpiece in the dark.  No, an obra maestra is placed under the light, for all to see how lovingly its maker created it.

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