“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.” (John 3:16)
This was the verse before the Gospel at the evening Mass, which I celebrated with the students on Thursday, March 15th, during the Fourth Week of Lent. It reminds us of God’s love for
all humanity, and puts forth a case for believing in Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son.
This passage is situated within the narrative of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisee named Nicodemus. When he met with Jesus, in chapter 3, verse 16, of John’s Gospel, he was perplexed. Nicodemus was a righteous man and one of the respected members of the Jewish council called, the Sanhedrin. Yet, like many of those who saw and heard Jesus, Nicodemus also believe that Jesus might be the one sent forth by God, because no one could perform those wonders unless God is with him. Nicodemus believed because of the signs he saw in Jesus.
That was the starting point of my reflection at the Mass. I asked the students what signs would make them believe in a person—what makes a person credible. One student said possessing some kind of knowledge, another mentioned having followers, and still another shared about the ability to perform extraordinary things. I acknowledged their responses. I told them those were good answers, but I was looking for something even better. So, I directed their attention to the large crucifix hanging on the south wall of the room. I asked the question again. After a brief moment of silence, one student raised his hand and said, “When a person makes great sacrifices for others—when he lays down his life for them.” I said, “Bingo!”
There are many reasons why we believe in Jesus. For me, the most compelling sign is Jesus’ willingness to humble himself and empty himself—even to lay down his life on the cross. Saint Paul spoke so eloquently about this in his letter to the Philippians. Jesus made great sacrifices for the love of God. He went above and beyond what was expected of him in order to do the will of the Father in heaven. This is what makes him credible. “Because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9) This is why I believe in Jesus.
As Christians, we are all called follow Jesus, our Lord. As we have completed our journey through the final weeks of the Lenten Season, I hope you reflect on your willingness to go above and beyond what is expected of you, in all aspects of your life, in pursuit of God’s will and in building up His Kingdom. That in so doing, we become more and more like Christ—credible persons worthy of being called his disciples.