Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born from above…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.”
In order to heal those who had been bitten by snakes, Moses was ordered by God to fashion a serpent out of bronze and lift it over his head. Those who saw it and had been bitten would be saved. So my question is, Why so much drama? Why so much work? Couldn’t Moses have simply touched the sick person and everything would have been solved? No. The Lord told Moses, Do what I say. Of course he could have told Moses, “Snap your fingers and there, it’s done.” But the Lord does not ask Moses to be practical. God asks Moses to think like He does, eternally. God thinks long term. This life saving act would one day be used by the Son of God as an example – an important example – of who (and what) saves: Jesus lifted up on the Cross.
You must be born from above. It’s time to think eternally, to live surprisingly, to share lovingly. It’s time to be holy. The Lord is inviting Nicodemus to think BIG; to be different; to live not like man does but like God does.
Recently, I went to Braums with a beautiful family to get some ice cream. While we were enjoying our wonderful treat Julian’s mom asked her five-year-old son, “Why don’t you tell Father what happened to you this past Sunday at Mass?” I immediately glanced over at Julian and his face turned bright red. Now Julian is a wonderful child but was very hesitant in explaining what happened. He tried as hard as possible to make light of the situation by putting a big smile on his face and acting a little silly. Eventually, and with a lot of prodding from his siblings, he let it all out. He said, “I was not a very good boy in Church. Mommy gave me two quarters to put into the collection basket.” I said, “That’s great Julian. Did you give the money to God?” “Well”, he said, “I didn’t drop the money into the basket. Instead, I pretended to drop it in there.” “Ouch!” that hurt. But then things got worse. “When mommy told me to let go of the money, I dropped only one quarter in the basket. I didn’t put both of them like I was supposed to.” Uh-oh! This is only getting worse. Julian then defended himself by explaining himself, “I wanted to keep the money so that I could get some bubble gum!!!”
When we think short-term, we tend to think desperately. When we think desperately, we risk everything. When we risk everything, everything goes out the window! Teenagers, by their very nature, think in French or Latin; that is, À la mode or carpe diem. Of course, not too many teenagers will hold on to fifty cents for some bubble gum. But they will do things or hold on to things that offend God. Little Julian thought fifty cents was more important than God. He thought some bubble gum was more important than God. He thought in the short term. Don’t we do the same? “I will break whatever commandment I have to so that I can be happy.” “I will do whatever it takes to become popular (or successful).” “I will do whatever it takes to get accepted at this or that school or to pass this or that test.” Why do we think like this? Because we think today “is the most important day ever”, much more important than God, or His commandments, or my future, or my reputation. We have a very hard time imagining better days ahead or things making much more sense in the long run.
Christ invites us to be holy (like him), to think eternally (which means think big), to live surprisingly (differently) and to share lovingly. It’s never easy because we hardly ever think eternally.
This morning I celebrated Mass for our elementary school kids. As I looked out at my young congregation and saw all the children hold hands while they recited the Our Father, I recalled as a child what I thought about that. I couldn’t stand holding hands. I hated it. We had assigned seats and I hated holding this one kid’s slimy, filthy, disgusting hand for so long. But now, as an adult, I look out there and I love seeing it. I see so many things differently as an adult. Will we not see things differently from heaven…or from Hell?
Once upon a time reputation was considered a virtue. It was hard earned. It took years to achieve. You didn’t want to lose it and you made sure you fought for it. The early Christians had an amazing reputation: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).
What happened? Look at where we are today? The Christians shared all they possessed because they had only one person in mind: Jesus Christ; they had only one thing in mind: Heaven. The community of believers believed in Jesus and in Heaven, two eternal truths. THINK ETERNALLY. Everything else turns to sand.