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He gave his only Son

If you were to enjoy a walk in the Louisville Swamp Wildlife Refuge near Jordan, MN, or look closely on the plains off Hwy. 169 before getting to Belle Plaine, MN, you might be startled to see huge boulders lying placidly on these ancient river bottoms. Since they look out of place one might ask, “How did they get there?”

Geologists theorize that as ancient glaciers dug into the side of cliffs, say up near Granite Falls, big chunks of rock would fall onto the glacier and over thousands of years ride the glacier south as it continued to spread. When they stopped and melted, these huge rocks would settle in erratic places.

Thus, the geologic term for these out of place chunks of granite on plains or ancient river beds are called “erratics.” These huge boulders in the middle of the plain recall the past and how they tie into the present landscape, but with-out asking questions they would remain a mystery.

In the landscape of today’s Gospel Jesus starts out with what I call a Biblical erratic. Jesus explains himself and his mission to Nicodemus by bringing up Moses who lived about 1,200 years before the birth of Christ.

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that all who believe may have eternal life.”

This startling image needs explanation, a broader understanding of the Bible. To clarify, we recall how Moses led the Chosen People of God out of slavery into the desert for forty (40) years to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

You can imagine how difficult it was to travel in a desert for forty years! It is not surprising that many of the Chosen began to rebel against God and Moses and began talking badly about them. Because they did not stay open to God’s purifying discipline and repent, we read about the consequences of their animus toward God and his servant, Moses.

We read in the Book of Numbers, chapter 21, how God sent Seraph serpents to enter the camp and bite some of the people, who began to die. Yet, some of the faithful went to Moses and asked him to intercede for them to God.

Moses does intercede, and God tells Moses to make a bronze figure of the serpent and mount it onto a pole in a high place so that all in the camp can see it. Then God in-structed Moses to tell those who were bit to look at the bronze serpent and repent of their sins. When the people did this they were healed and continued their journey to the Promised Land, but many still did not heed the Lord.

Jesus mentioned this because he too will be raised up like the serpent on the pole, and when people look upon him on the cross and make a perfect act of contrition (God, I am sorry for having offended you and your love, please forgive me. With your grace I will not sin again) then they will be placed back onto the journey to the Promised Land of heaven.

It was God’s love for all poured out by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that won the grace for everyone to make a perfect act of contrition. As Catholics we do this too, but especially when we have committed mortal sins. To complete the perfect act of contrition we say something like: “And I will go to Confession as soon as possible so that I can worthily receive the Eucharist – Jesus Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – the pledge of Eternal Glory.”

Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever 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. 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. Jn 3:16-20

God – the greatest lover; so loved the world – the greatest need; that he gave his only Son – the greatest gift; that whoever believes in him – the greatest decision to lovingly follow; might not perish – the greatest rescue; but might have eternal life – the greatest consequence of living in the light of Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

Jesus continued: “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen and done in God.” Cf. Jn. 3:21

This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in these paragraphs:

1456: Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be re-counted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments – You shall not covet your neighbors spouse or his goods]; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.

“When Christ‟s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, „for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.‟”

1457: According to the Church‟s command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if they experience deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.

Praise God that we know how to respond to God’s love for us in Christ and be assured of our salvation – the Eternal Easter of our Resurrection in Christ!

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Thomas McCabe


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