Eternal life was opened to us by Christ's Paschal Mystery and faith is the way to reach it. It is what follows from Jesus' words to Nicodemus and expressed by John the Evangelist: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). Here is the explicit reference to the episode narrated in the book of Numbers (21:1-9), which highlights the salvific force of faith in the divine word. During the exodus, the Hebrew people rebelled against Moses and against God, and was punished by the plague of venomous serpents. Moses asked for forgiveness, and God, accepting the repentance of the Israelites, ordered them to "make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." And so it happened.
Jesus, in the conversation with Nicodemus, revealed the more profound meaning of this event of salvation, referring it to his own death and resurrection: the Son of Man must be lifted on the wood of the Cross so that whoever believes in him will have life. St. John sees precisely in the mystery of the cross the moment in which the real glory of Jesus is revealed, the glory of a love that gives itself totally in the passion and death. Thus, paradoxically, from a sign of condemnation, of death, of failure, the cross becomes sign of redemption, of life, of victory, in which, with the look of faith, the fruits of salvation can be gathered.
Continuing the dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus reflects ultimately on the salvific meaning of the cross, revealing with ever greater clarity that it consists in the immense love of God and in the gift of the Only-Begotten Son: "God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son." This is one of the central words of the Gospel. The subject is God the Father, origin of the whole creating and redeeming mystery. The verbs "to love" and "to give" indicate a decisive and definitive act that expresses the radicalism with which God approached man in love, to the total gift, to the threshold of our ultimate solitude, throwing himself into the abyss of our extreme abandonment, passing through the door of death.
The object and beneficiary of divine love is the world, namely, humanity. It is a word that erases completely the idea of a distant God, stranger to man's journey, and reveals rather his true faith: He gave us his Son out of love, to be the close God, to make us feel his presence, to come to meet us and carry us in his love, so that all of life is animated by this divine love.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life. God does not take possession but loves without measure. He does not manifest his omnipotence in punishment, but in mercy and in forgiveness. To understand all this means to enter into the mystery of salvation: Jesus came to save, not to condemn; with the sacrifice of the cross he reveals the loving face of God. And precisely by faith in the superabundant love that has been given to us in Christ Jesus, we know that even the smallest force of love is greater than the greatest destructive force and can transform the world, and by this same faith we can have the "reliable hope," in eternal life and in the resurrection of the flesh.
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