Very Rev.Fr.Joychen Paranjattu, Vicar General Rajkot Diocese
Recently, we have been hearing that the right-wing groups have stepped up their anti-Christian campaign in central India, urging villagers to disassociate themselves from Christians and asking Christians to switch to their Religion and to avoid hostility. However, indigenous Christians in Madhya Pradesh state have vowed not to give up their faith under pressure and are prepared to face challenges to safeguard their faith. Today’s Gospel passage invites the reader to have strong faith in Jesus and to live in the light that Christ has brought to this world. God’s wish is not to condemn the world, but to save it through Jesus. This faith in Christ will save the believer and will lead him to eternal life. There is also warning to those who refuse to believe and prefer darkness that they are condemned already.
Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole in the middle of the Israelite camp. God had told Moses to do this so the Israelites who murmured against God and Moses and bitten by serpents could express their faith by looking at it and be healed. The bronze serpent was God’s way. It was a call to faith in God and to the way of healing He established. Nothing more is known of the bronze serpent until it is mentioned again in 2 Kings 18:4 . There, in the account of King Hezekiah’s purging of the Temple, the Bible tells of the destruction of this symbol. Apparently, the bronze serpent had become an object of worship as the Israelites had made offerings to it; it was called Nehusthan (Nehushtan is a combination of the Hebrew words for serpent and for bronze. cf. 2Kgs 18:4). Bronze serpent which became a symbol of God’s mercy towards the Israelites had become a stumbling block. So Nehusthan, as it was called, was broken into pieces.
In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus compared His own purpose with that of the bronze serpent. The serpent, lifted up in the wilderness, had been God’s chosen way to provide physical healing. Jesus, lifted up on the cross, is God’s chosen way to provide spiritual healing for all afflicted by sin. As the serpent gave life in the wilderness, Jesus gives spiritual life. Faith was necessary to look at the serpent and be healed; faith is necessary to receive the healing (salvation) Jesus gives. His death on the Cross is to unite the believer in eternity with God who created them in His own image and likeness.
According to John, there is another moment of the symbol of God’s mercy. The moment of Jesus’ death and Resurrection is considered as a single moment of Jesus’ glorification. This is the moment of God’s mercy. This is the moment or hour when non-Jews will begin to believe in Jesus. Jesus says: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he” (Jn 8:28). It is only with the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we realize how much God loves us and saves everyone by allowing his only son to die for us. Again in Jn 12:32, he says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself”. That means, only after the Resurrection will the non-Jews believe in Jesus and know his true identity as the Son of God. Yes, this Son comes from the Father to the world to lead people to God the Father. He himself shows the way to the Father. He is the one who says that “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
If we listen to Jesus’ teachings and believe in him and in his teachings/words, we are in the right path. Jesus reveals to his audience, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). There are many who prefer darkness in the world. They want to hide their evil deeds. They oppress others with their power and authority. However, those who live in Christ cannot live in darkness. To live in the light means to do what is true and to please God with our deeds.