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March 8, 1991     The Message
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March, 8, 1991, , , The Mema -- for Cathoik:s of Southweete Incllana ,. Commentary I  Mass Readings By FA'R .DONALD DILGER Serpent in the wilderness: love of God for the w()rld 5 Gospel Commentary for Sunday, March 10, 1991 -- Fourth Sunday of Lent: John 3:14-21 The author of the Gospel of John ended his story about Jesus' cleansing of the temple precincts by stating that many believed in Jesus because of the miracles he worked in Jerusalem at the Passover. He does not approve of this type of faith based on miracles, since he adds that Jesus did not quite trust them. Now John gives an example of people who believ because of miracles or "signs" as he calls them. The man's name is Nicodemus. He is a Pharisee and a member of the religious governing body called the Sanhedrin. John significantly states that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. What he means is that the faith of Nicodemus based on miracles is still darkness but the man comes out of darkness to the Light that is Jesus. There is a dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus asks some questions and the dialogue turns into a monologue allowing the author of the gospel to express his theology about Jesus. Today's gospel reading is in the middle of that dialogue- monologue. The first sentence states that "the Son of man (Jesus) must be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness," so that all who believe in him may have eternal life. The background to this statement is an Old Testament story about the Israelites in the wilderness. They were grumbling about the lack of food and water. They had little or no faith in God's loving care for them. The Lord sends snakes among them. Many die from the bite of Please patronize Message advertisers! "Funeral Pre-Planning Since 1940" Miller & Miller 424-9274 James Jett & Associates, Inc. life *, health o home * IRA retirement planning 473--4005 514 S. Green River Rd. 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The people repent of their lack of trust in God and ask Moses to pray for them. The Lord tells Moses to cast a bronze snake and hang it high on a pole. All who would look at that bronze snake would not die from the poison. Many centuries later a theologian interpreted the snake as a symbol of the law of Moses, the Torah. All those who turn to the Torah are rescued by the Savior of all, that is Yahweh. John uses both the original story and its later interpretation. For him it is no longer the Torah or law of Moses to which people turn, but to Jesus who has become the Savior of all. Faith in him gives eternal life. As the Israelites looked at the bronze snake and were cured, and as later Jews turned to the law of Moses and were saved, thus Christians turn to Jesus and gain eternal life. The reason is now given why God permitted his Son to be "lifted up." "God so loved the world that he gave his only son." Here John has in mind the command to Abraham: "Take your son, your ONLY SON, whom you love.., and offer him as a sacrifice." As Abraham was willing to give his son to God, so God is willing to give his Son to us. The Gospel of John does not focus on the death of Jesus as a sacrifice as much as Mark and Matthew do. However, the expression "GAVE HIS SON" is surely a reference to the death of Jesus on the cross. Both Luke and Paul are even more graphic. They do not say that God "gave his Son," but rather that "He handed him over." They base this idea on a text of Isaiah who writes about "the Suf- fering Servant of Yahweh: "The Lord handed him over for our sins." We are not sure just whom Isaiah had in mind, but Christian theologians ap- plied the text to Jesus as they developed the idea of God sacrificing his son for us. This is difficult for us to grasp, since a normal parent is hardly willing to sacrifice a child for the good of others and will not unless compelled to do so. What the New Testament authors want to express is that God's love for his human creatures is without limit. Human comparisons fail to do justice to the unlimited love of God. We might say that God is compelled by love. One more point from this gospel is that we read that "God so loved the WORLD." The dniver- sal love of God is not as common in the Gospel of John as it is, for example in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. For example,, in John 17:9 Jesus prays: " I am not praying for them. I am NOT PRAYING FOR THE WORLD, but for those you have give me." John 12:32 also states: "When I am lifted up, I will draw ALL people to myself." It seems there will always be some who will not accept that pull of divine gravity toward Jesus and God's love. It is only through their own fault that those who do not believe are condemned, "for God did not send the Son into the world to condemn it, hut to save it," to restore all people to a loving and caring rela- tionship to God and each other. "For I have given you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you." Other readings for Sunday, March 10, 1991: H Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10 Life in prison bill affirms sanctity of life By ANN WADELTON Indiana Catholic Conference The judge and jury would be given an additional sentencing option in murder cases under a bill approved 9-0 by the Courts and Criminal Code Committee of the Indiana General Assembly. Besides the death penalty .or a life sentence, the convicted murderer could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Testifying in support of House Bill 1802, Dr. M. Des- mend Ryan, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Con- ference, said the bill "affirms the sanctity of life while still protecting the community from violent criminals." The bill's author, Rep. Jesse Villalpando (D-East Chicago) said the bill would provide an option for juries and judges who are philosophically against the death penalty but do not want the killer on the streets. Life sentences now carry a max- imum of 60 years in prison which can be reduced to 30 years with good behavior. The proposed bill would mean that the convicted person would die in prison unless the sentence was commuted by the governor. The bill could also avoid the years of legal appeals which follow a death sentence and which keep most death row in- mates alive indefinitely. Two people have been executed in the state since 1978 when the death penalty was reinstated. Both waived their appeals. In his testimony, Dr. Ryan said that the Church does not deny the right of the state to ex- ecute murderers but is convinc- ed that lethal punishment, in- stead of protecting society, ac- celerates the cycle of violence. "Nor do we deny the seriousness of violent crime in our society or the reality of the pain of the victims of crime/' he said. "But we reject the use of lethal means to solve social problems, whether those pro- blems involve unwanted pregnancies, burdensome hospital patients or convicted killers." The proposed bill also has the support of Larry Landis of the Indiana Public Defender Coun- cil who said that under the cur- rent options, jurors may not know that a life sentence means that the convicted person may be free in 30 years. Thirty-seven states now have a death penalty. Twenty-five of those states have a sentence of life in prison without paroleas an alternative to the death penalty. American National Bank Bicknell - Sandborn Vincennes Drive-in Facilities - Member F.D.I.C. A Full Service Bank i iiYl,ll( .... FOR COMPLETE ELECTRICAL SERVICE FISCHER ELECTRIC INC. RT. 1 ST. ANTHONY POLE BARNS 30x40x10 .............. $2,995 40x60x12 .............. $5,995 Open one side; Erected. 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