Prayer of Presence:
Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade, I say to the Lord, You are my refuge, my stronghold! You are my God – the one I trust! … Psalm 91:2
Scripture: Today’s reading is from the Gospel of John 3:14-21
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
The crucifixion of Christ is set within the context of Israel’s salvific history. Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to heal the people from venomous snake bites (Numbers 21). In this text, John is saying that the sozo, or salvation and healing of God continue through the crucifixion of Christ. God has sent Christ into the world so the world could be saved and healed through him (John 3:17).
The Greek word sozo is used interchangeably in the New Testament to express the concepts and realities of healing and salvation. Healing could mean the restoration of health in the medical sense. But the more comprehensive understanding of healing as it used in the New Testament refers to a state of human wholeness, completion, and integrity lifted up in the world because of Christ. Christ came to show us the way to live as spiritually and socially healed, wholesome, complete, virtuous, and principled people (Jn. 10:10). When we choose this way of life, we experience abundant and eternal life, not after death, but now!
Refusing the abundant and eternal life Christ offers is equated to living in bleak darkness. Contrary to what many believe, it is not God who condemns humanity. It is humanity which condemns itself by refusing to live in the light of God’s extravagant love for the world in Christ.
It is easy to judge and condemn others. Today’s Gospel text proclaims that Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to forgive, heal, and save it. The good news is that by coming into the true light of Christ, we can participate in God’s divine mission in the world. As children of the light, we are called to lift up and proclaim Christ’s salvation and healing in places where people are snake bit by venomous words and actions that harm, wound and kill human hope, dignity, and opportunity. As we do so, Christ will be lifted up, and people will clearly see that our deeds are done on behalf of God’s love for the world.
Questions for Reflection:
Prayer Focus: For the grace live more fully in the light of God’s love.
A Simple Irish Prayer:
May God give you … For every storm, a rainbow, For every tear, a smile, For every care, a promise, And a blessing in each trial.