Today is the fourth Sunday in Lent. It is known as Laetare Sunday. This means “Sunday to rejoice” . The reason we mark this Sunday as “the Sunday to rejoice” is because we are halfway through our Lenten journey. when you are halfway through some thing one can imagine finishing. One can imagine completion one is given hope. So this is the Sunday of joy and hope.
Are we rejoicing that Lent will be over? No. We are rejoicing at what we celebrate at Lent’s conclusion. We are celebrating the journey of Jesus as He gave His life for us, conquering death through His Resurrection. It gives us hope not for the end of Lent but rather for the end of sin and death.
We hear in today’s Gospel a great message of hope. We hear that “God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but the world might be saved through Him”. And Jesus promises that He will be the One who heals.
Jesus invokes the moment in Jewish history when the people had been bitten by serpents in the desert because of their wicked ways. Moses took a serpent and put it on a pole and held it up for all the people to see. All that looked upon his serpent staff were healed. Another word for serpent is seraph. This is the symbol of healing used in modern day medicine. It is known as the seraph staff. It is the two entwined serpents around a pole. How many times have you seen this symbol? Now you can and recognize it’s biblical roots and see a symbol of God’s healing activity.
Let’s think about this for a minute. This is full of meaning. In the garden of Eden the Evil One, the Devil, the Tempter assumed the form of a serpent. Humankind was tempted to be disobedient to God. In that act of disobedience forever changed the condition of humanity. Our first human parents, whatever they did, listened to the Tempter and made the decision to break the union and harmony with God. That original sin forever impacted all of humanity.
It is Jesus then who brings healing and restoration relationship. It is Jesus Who is lifted up in sacrifice on the Cross- bringing reconciliation for all humanity with God. God takes what was distorted and twisted by the Evil One and again makes it whole. The serpent is no longer a symbol of evil but rather a symbol of healing. More powerfully, Jesus lifted up on the Cross brings ultimate healing and salvation. As we are told – God sent His Son to bring eternal life.
Does this give you hope? I certainly think this is the very reason we call it the Good News of Jesus Christ. Of course we know that is the Greek meaning of the word Gospel. Gospel is ancient Greek for good news. It begs the question of asking, what is good about this news? And we have the answer in today’s Gospel. We have hope for eternal life because Jesus Christ gave His life for us.
This means that whatever you have in your life that makes you feel like it is distorted, or a challenge, or a struggle for you to be living in a state of grace – you have the good news that God wishes you to be reconciled and healed in your relationship with Him.
This is the good news that tells us no one is beyond God’s love. No one is beyond God‘s forgiveness and reconciliation. God desires everyone to be healed in terms of any brokenness in their relationship with Him. A wonderful wise spiritual writer known as Thomas Merton once wrote, “We are the body of Christ but we are a body of broken bones”. How wise those words are. We need healing in our relationship with God. We all do things that caused damage to that relationship. Whether it is driven by pride or anger or any multitude of spiritual temptations, we all at times need healing in our relationship with God. The good news is God wishes the healing to happen. And God is eager and willing to grant that healing if we ask for it. The message of hope in today’s gospel on this Sunday of rejoicing is a profound message indeed. It is a message that simply states “God loves you and God is willing to heal anything that has hurt your relationship with Him.” Let us rejoice and be glad. Rejoice that God’s Love for you can never be taken away. God offers you His love and healing. He has been lifted up and He gives us eternal life