A glimpse of God’s plan for salvation

Reflection on Mass readings for March 10 (4th Sunday of Lent)


2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Psalm 137: 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

Ephesians 2:4-10

John 3:14-21


I am a great fan of Agatha Christie novels. Part of the fun of reading her mysteries is to see if you can figure out the solution before it is completely revealed in the book. If I fail to identify the culprit, I look back at all the clues that were there in the story and wonder how I could have missed them. If I am honest with myself, sometime the twist is so unique that I really would have never understood the clues until all had been revealed.

Life is generally not like an Agatha Christie novel. There are very few times in our lives when we receive a hint of how it is all going to turn out in the end. But in our faith life, God does give us glimpses of the fulfillment of his plans for us.

Nicodemus is a good example of someone who is given a glimpse of how Jesus will save us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and must have understood Jesus’ allusion to the account of Israel’s punishment by the bites of the poisonous seraph serpents.

He probably was able to make the connection between God transforming the image of the very instrument of death and punishment into the image of the instrument of salvation. But at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, it probably was beyond him to understand the full implications of Jesus’ statement.

Now, we can see that Jesus, the Innocent One, was to take upon himself the sins of all humanity as he was lifted up on the cross. It was very unlikely that Nicodemus understood that Jesus would, in suffering the cruel death of Roman crucifixion, take upon himself the sins of the world. And it was even more unlikely that Nicodemus understood the deeper meaning of the phrase “so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn 3:14) as an image of Jesus’ resurrection and glorification.

But to us and to those who live in the New Covenant, we receive hope and comfort that the sins, trials, and sufferings of our life are healed by the one who has been lifted up. The same image of hope in trial is also found in our Old Testament reading for Sunday.

Our reading from the Second Book of Chronicles are the last words of the Old Testament in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Christian version of the Old Testament ends with the Book of the Prophet Malachi with his prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. But the Hebrew Scriptures end with a word of hope and comfort that the New Temple would be rebuilt.

It is the promise that the Lord God would once again dwell with his people. Even beyond the time of the writing of the Book of Chronicles, the people of Israel would suffer trials and destruction of the very temple that Chronicles seems to prophesy.

But we are given a glimpse of the hope and comfort amidst our struggles that God does now dwell with his people in the New Temple that is Jesus Christ.  We can read the Book of Chronicles with the knowledge that the true fulfillment of the prophecy is Jesus bringing us into the New Temple that is in heaven.

It is fitting in the middle of Lent, on Laetare Sunday, that the joys of Easter and the New Covenant are foreshadowed by the promise of a New Temple and the image of Jesus being lifted up on the cross.


Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor at Church of the Incarnation, Charlottesville, and Our Lady of the Rosary, Crozet.


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