Jesus said to Nicodemus: “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.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who 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. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 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. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
In this Gospel, Jesus makes clear that it is faith in Him that is the line that separates the saved from the damned. He could not be more clear: Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has been condemned already. Jesus Himself is the light that came into the world. Stand inside that light and show your works as being done in God, and you will be saved. Stand outside that light, in the darkness, and you will be condemned.
In the year 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated the Declaration Dominus Iesus (“Jesus is Lord”), in which they affirmed once again the ancient and orthodox teaching that Jesus is the salvation of all humanity and that, while non-Christians can certainly be saved through their sincere desire to seek and serve God as they understand Him, even here it is by the grace of Christ that they are saved. The Declaration caused more than a bit of controversy and consternation, because it was interpreted as denying the value of non-Christian religious traditions. This was not true, of course, and Pope St. John Paul II re-affirmed the Catholic Church’s profound respect for non-Christian religious traditions while, at the same time, affirming that only through the grace won for us by Christ are any of us saved.
The central message of this Gospel is that God sent His Son because He loves the world. God sent His Son, not to condemn the world, but so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life. God is not eager to condemn, as atheists, secularists, and even some Christians imagine Him. No, He is eager to save, and rejoices when men and women come to Him in faith. However, what sticks in the craw of so many atheists, secularists, and even some Christians is that it is on God’s terms that we are saved, and not on our terms. Many people want God and want Jesus, but they want Him on their terms. This is foolishness, of course. We have to remember that God is God, and that we are not God. It is God who sets the terms because it is by His grace that we are created, sustained, and saved. And, His terms are generous! I have often said that, if any man or woman were my judge, I would damned to hell in a heartbeat. Thanks be to God that Jesus is my judge, because He is a judge who is gracious and merciful.
God desires that all be saved. If not all are saved, it is because of a refusal to turn to the light, to prefer the darkness, because of wicked deeds. Our contemporary culture demands that God (and His Church!) affirm the wicked deeds so many have chosen. This is impossible, because God is truth, and He cannot deny Himself. Deeds of wickedness are lies, because they promise salvation but cannot deliver. Jesus promises the grace of salvation for all. By a life lived in perfect obedience to the will of the Father, even onto death, Jesus has been raised up and has delivered on His promise of grace for the salvation of the whole world.
Come to Jesus! Come into the light!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.