By Devin Watkins
As the Church celebrates Laetare Sunday, Pope Francis invited Christians to draw near to the light of Christ and ask for His forgiveness.
Speaking ahead of the noon-day Marian prayer of the Angelus, the Pope considered why the fourth Sunday of Lent has such a joyous focus.
“This joyful message is the heart of the Christian faith,” said the Pope, “God’s love found its summit in the gift of his Son to a weak and sinful humanity.”
In the day’s Gospel, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night to inquire as to His identity.
Jesus, said the Pope, shakes Nicodemus’ faith by presenting Himself under three aspects: “the Son of Man exalted on the cross; the Son of God sent into the world for salvation; and that of the light which distinguishes those who follow the truth from those who follow lies.”
The first aspect of Jesus’ identity, said the Pope, recalls the serpent which Moses lifted up in the desert to save the people from death due to snake bites.
Similarly, he noted, “Jesus was lifted up on the cross and those who believe in him are healed of sin and live.”
To bring light of salvation
Pope Francis said the second aspect—that of the Son of God—highlights God’s gift of His only Son for the salvation of humanity. God, he added, desires our eternal salvation, and Jesus’ mission is one of salvation for all.
Jesus also describes Himself to Nicodemus as “the light”, which is opposed to darkness.
“The coming of Jesus into the world leads to a choice,” said the Pope. “Whoever chooses darkness will face a judgment of condemnation, whoever chooses light will have a judgment of salvation.”
Judgement, he noted, is the result of our own free choice. “Whoever practices evil seeks the darkness; whoever seeks the truth, that is, those who practice what is good, come to the light.”
Rejoicing in God’s forgiveness
Pope Francis then urged Christians to live our Lenten journey as one directed toward the light of Christ.
We are called, he said, to “welcome the light into our conscience to open our hearts to God's infinite love, to His mercy full of tenderness and goodness.”
God, he concluded, always forgives our sins when we ask for Him to.
Under the protection of Our Lady
And the Pope prayed that the Virgin Mary might give us the courage to allow Jesus to “throw our faith into crisis.”
“It is a healthy crisis,” he said, “for our healing: so that our joy may be full.”