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This fourth Sunday of Lent is called “Rejoice Sunday” because it focuses on God’s grace. The Sacred Liturgy invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s grace, mercy, and salvation. We rejoice in anticipation of the joy that will be our Easter celebration.

In the Gospel reading, the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus leads us into the mystery of the cross and tells about Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross. Jesus “lifted up” on the cross shows us Jesus’ total sacrificial love and self-giving. This “lifting up” is something that God continues to do for us throughout human history. God “lifted up” Noah and his family through the ark, which carried them to safety. God “lifted up” Abraham and Sarah in their old age, so they could conceive a child and then become the parents of a great nation. God “lifted up” the people of Israel in their time of need and reminded them of their need to return to the Lord.

God is “lifting up” each of us from our own daily burdens, struggles, sorrows, hopelessness, disappointments, and failures and bringing us joy, peace, hope, and happiness. Today, we all are called to continue serving God’s mission of “lifting up” others: those who are struggling with daily sufferings, personal problems, and who are sick and lonely. We can “lift them up” through our kind and encouraging words, through reaching out with helping hands, and especially through our simple presence and showing our love and mercy!

Another point we can learn from the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus is that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Here “night” means more than just time of day. Light and darkness are symbols of truth and error, grace and sin. Nicodemus came to Jesus from the night of darkness, the night of confusion, the night of doubt, the night of pride, selfishness, and sinfulness. Jesus is the “light of the world” and Jesus is the “true light,” which enlightens everyone. This light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

Let me share with you a small story: Once upon a time a little candle stood in a room filled with other candles, most of them were much larger and much more colorful and beautiful than she was. She had no idea why she was there, and the other candles made her feel rather small and unimportant.

When the sun went down and the room began to get dark, she noticed a man walking toward her with a fire on a stick. She suddenly realized that the man was going to set her on fire. She was so scared and cried out, “: No…no. don’t burn me, please.” But she knew that she could not be heard and prepared for the pain that would surely follow. To her surprise, the room filled with light. To her delight, she realized that the light came from her.

Then the man started to lite the other beautiful and larger candles in the room. But they couldn’t be lit and so could not bring any light in the room because these candles were artificial and only for decoration. During the next few hours, she noticed that, slowly, her wax began to flow and became aware that she would soon die. Then she realized that. “My purpose on earth is to give light until I die,” and that was exactly what she did!

God created you and me to bring light in a dark world. Like that little candle, we all can produce light, no matter how small we are or what color we might be. But we cannot produce light until we receive the light from Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Let us try to be a small candle for others and light up the heart of another’s life. God’s light is inside of us and living in our hearts and soul!

We might wonder and ask: “If Jesus is the light of the world, why is there still so much hatred, so much crime, so much suffering, and death?” Today’s gospel suggests these questions: “Where and how do we choose to spend our time? In the light of loving others as Jesus does or in the darkness of ignorance and indifference toward those in the need of our compassion?”

When we allow the light of God’s forgiveness to shine in our lives, it brightens up every corner, restores our relationship with God, and renews our lives. Those who follow Jesus will not walk in darkness. We will experience joy and peace from the forgiveness of our sins, from new attitudes, and form new relationships with family and friends.

Let us try to let the light of Christ shines through us into the lives of people around us. The light we give to others can dispel the darkness of their lives and bring them to completely new outlooks. When we live in the light of Christ and love others, we allow God to save us. So, let us try to be living symbols of God’s love and mercy and “lifted up” for others to see and experience God’s light and love in their lives! Let us follow the words of St. Mother Teresa, “You may think your light is small, but it can make a huge difference in other people’s lives.”