Father Barry O’Toole, LC
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Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted
up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son
of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who 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 might not perish but might
have eternal life. For God did not send his Son
into the world to condemn the world, but that the
world might be saved through him. 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. And this is
the verdict, that the light came into the world, but
people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and
does not come toward the light, so that his works
might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes
to the light, so that his works may be clearly
seen as done in God.
Introductory Prayer: In placing myself in your
presence, Lord, I wish to shake off all laziness and
distractions and listen to your words of life. You deserve
my full attention, gratitude and praise, because you are my
loving, merciful Creator and Redeemer. I believe in you. I
hope in you. I love you. I adore you, and
I long to be more united to you through love.
Petition: Lord, help me discern your presence in the Eucharist
and all of the circumstances of my day.
Shaky Member of the Sanhedrin: Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a
member of the leading class in Israel. He had certainly
caught word about the miracles Jesus had worked. Perhaps he
had heard one of Christ’s sermons. Something aroused in him
a deeper search for God. But Nicodemus was risking quite
a bit in making this visit, for Jesus had already
raised a few eyebrows in the Sanhedrin, some whom were
already envious of Jesus. Nicodemus’ heart is not at peace.
He seeks to know more about this new way; thus
he comes to Jesus at night. Have I allowed routine
to set in, diminishing or eliminating all desire for improvement
in my life? Have I already labeled Christ as a
“radical” so as not to lose my comfort zone? What
price am I willing to pay for this peace of
heart, for eternal life?
2. The Forbidden Question: Jesus
gives Nicodemus the answer to his unasked question. The problem
the Pharisees had with Jesus was their outlook on life.
God had chosen Israel as his people. He had made
a covenant with them: If they would fulfill his commandments
then God would bless them. But the Pharisees had come
to understand everything in a very legalistic manner, and the
true love of God and neighbor had been forgotten. This
is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born
again. He needed a radical change in his life. Have
I, too, fallen into a legalistic mentality, concentrating merely on
the fulfillment of my obligations and brushing aside the more
weighty matters of loving God and neighbor? Have I opened
the door for God to enter into my daily existence
and bring his salvation?
3. The Serpent on the Pole:
A man cannot save himself. Only God can save man.
How? "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal
life." This phrase harks back to the Exodus, to God
leading his Chosen People out of slavery into the Promised
Land (cf. Numbers 20:4-9). That serpent fixed to a pole
is a sign of curing (it is the logo for
medicine even today). It is also a symbol of Jesus
being nailed to the cross. Every day, the hands of
his priests lift Jesus up. As they celebrate the sacrifice
of the Mass, Jesus renews the memorial of his death
as he offers himself to the Father for the salvation
of mankind. Here is where Nicodemus was unable to comprehend
the depth of Jesus’ words: “so that everyone who believes
in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, as I kneel before
your cross in this prayer, I thank you for kindling
in my heart a renewed desire for holiness and salvation.
I know I need a new mentality and a deep
conversion of heart. Give me the strength to leave aside
my mediocrity and truly search for you throughout this day.
Resolution: I will attend Mass today with special fervor,
seeking Jesus in the Eucharist, and if possible I will
also receive him in Holy Communion.