Patriarch Sabbah: ‘Jesus came so that no one will perish, but will have eternal life’

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SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2020

The Gospel of St. John - Chapter 3 (13-21)
“For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”. (John 3: 16)

God loved the world. That is why he created it. He created it good as He is: “God saw that it was good". (Gen 1: 25; Gen 1: 26.27) Man was created in His image and likeness. When man sinned, God followed him with his love, to free him from the situation of evil in which he placed himself. He promised him salvation. He sent the patriarchs and prophets to prepare the way for the Savior, as says the letter to the Hebrews:“At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the ages” .(Heb 1: 1-2)
The Savior is the Son of God, His eternal word: "God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”. (John 3: 16)

After the patriarchs and the prophets, God sent His only begotten Son, so that no one will perish, but will have eternal life.

This is also new for Nicodemus, for whom perfect religion consisted in keeping the commandments of the Law and all the external practices symbolizing the purity of man.

This is new to us, too. For us too, faith is liturgy and rituals, prayers and fasts. Faith is more than that, it is God who loves us, and it is our love of God, and love of God means love of all people. That is why something remains missing in our prayers and traditions if they are not perfected with love, if we do not love God, and all God’s children, near and far, friend and enemy. Love is the perfection of our prayer.

MONDAY, JANUARY 20, 2020

The Gospel of St. John - Chapter 3 (13-21)

“So that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3: 16).God wants everyone to be saved. “13For God did not make Death, He takes no pleasure in destroying the living.14To exist -- for this, he created all things”. (Wisdom 1: 14-15)

What is salvation and what is damnation? Salvation is man's ability to remain "in love", the love of God first and the love of the neighbor, that is, every human being, as a natural consequence of God's love. Then every evil will disappear, every aggression, even wars and injustices between peoples. Salvation means that humanity lives in a state of harmony and love. Unfortunately, this is not our reality, neither at the level of individuals nor at the level of societies and peoples. Some individuals may live this “salvation”, when they reach a high level of spirituality, a life of love for God and for all people. But they're few.

This situation on Earth, namely the "universal love" of God and people, is the goal of humanity, the goal of all its progress, achievements and all its civilizations. But there are negative values which dominate human life which contradict this logic of love. They are values of national or individual selfishness, which lead to wars and all kinds of sufferings.

Yet our situation, namely our inability to "love", is not hopeless. God created us in His image, namely capable of love. On the other hand, every human being seeks what is good, or what he thinks is good. We look indeed for salvation, but at the same time we move away from it. Nevertheless, in this life and in the hereafter, man is called to "love". Therefore one is able to, in one’s personal life, if one strives and resists evil in oneself, and in public or national life, if the rulers open their eyes and minds and enter the ways of life.

The salvation that Jesus Christ speaks of is the salvation that begins on this Earth with God's love for us, and our love for Him, and for each other. This is our goal, for that we strife in this life. The salvation we achieve, our power to love, on Earth, is the prelude of our salvation beyond, in eternity.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2020

The Gospel of St. John - Chapter 3 (13-21)

God created man to be good. He created him in His image and likeness so that His life on earth will be a life with God and his life after will be a continuation of His life with God. To live with God is the normal way of a human life. With God man finds his happiness. God wants every person to be saved, namely to achieve the goal of his life, which is living with God. In this meaning Jesus says: God wants “that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3: 16).

God wants everyone to be saved, but salvation also depends on the acceptance or refusal of man himself. One can willingly walk in the way of salvation, or willingly turn away from it.

God does not abandon anyone. The person himself makes his decision and turns away, or he is too weak to keep going in the ways of God, therefore he turns away from God, and chooses evil by harming himself and his neighbor. If a person perseveres in the ways of God, he will be saved. If he goes away, he chooses his own damnation. Damnation is a departure from the goal and requirements of human nature, of what is normal and human.

A person’s life on Earth is a struggle in order to remain as good as God created him, walking towards the goal to which he aspires, and in it he finds the perfection of his life and his happiness.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2020

The Gospel of St. John - Chapter 3 (13-21)

“17 For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.18 No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God's only Son.19 And the judgment is this: though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.20 And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent his actions from being shown up;21 but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God” (John 3: 17-21).

In these verses, Jesus Christ reveals to Nicodemus the mystery of His personality: “God sent His Son into the world”. This Son of God is Jesus Christ who speaks to him. This is of course something that Nicodemus cannot understand. He believes in one God. This is the first time he hears words on the Son of God. The expression was mentioned in the Holy Scripture but not in a literary sense. Nicodemus could not understand that Jesus, the man, whom he came to talk with, is more than a man. He could be a prophet, but not what Jesus meant, literally the Son of God.

However, the words of Jesus were specific: The Son of God is a person "whom God sent into the world to save the world". Jesus confirms and says: "18 No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God's only Son” And the judgment is this: "Though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil".

The light, namely Jesus Christ Himself, came to the world. “People preferred darkness over light”. The word "people" is general, but it includes in particular the heads of the people, including Nicodemus. They did not accept the light. They preferred to remain in their traditions, rejecting the new light. John said the same thing in the beginning of his Gospel: “He came to his own and his own people did not accept him”. (John 1: 11)

Jesus continued His conversation with Nicodemus by saying: “Everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent his actions from being shown up;21 but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God”.(John 3:20-21)

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2020

The Gospel of St. John - Chapter 3 (13-21)

This speech is new revelation to Nicodemus. It was given to him to accept it, though not to understand it, at that moment, in his meeting with Lord Jesus. He was not given to know that Jesus who speaks to him is the Savior, the Son of God, and the Light. To be saved is to believe in Him and damnation is refusing to believe in Him, once we have known about Him.

What we read today is addressed to each one of us, to every believer in Jesus Christ today, and to every researcher on the truth that binds man to God, raises him above the reality of the Earth, and makes him able to see the divine reality that God put in man.

This is a speech to every believer, to reexamine oneself and one’s relation to Jesus Christ, to ask oneself: How much he accepts the light that is Jesus Christ? How much is he seeking to know who is Jesus Christ in whom he believes? The question which Jesus Christ once asked his apostles is posed to each of us: Who do you say that I am? Who am I to you? Who am I to you when you deal with your neighbor? Who am I to you in your positions in all aspects of life? Do you accept the salvation that Jesus Christ brought to every person? To what extent are you accepting Jesus Christ and his teachings in every detail of your private and public life? How guided are you by the light of God? Or do you shut yourself in the darkness of yourself? To what extent do you love or reject your brothers? Because just as you love or reject your brothers, you love or reject Jesus Christ Himself. God will tell you on the Day of Judgment: “All that you did to one of these little ones, or whatever you did not, you did it to me, or you neglected to do it to me”. (cf. Matthew 25:40.45)

FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2020

The Gospel of St. John - Chapter 3 (13-21)

Nicodemus came looking for the truth. He was honest, and he was aware that he was walking against the current. That is why he was afraid and came to Jesus at night for fear of his colleagues who had declared their opposition to Lord Jesus. They saw in Jesus a threat to the nation, because of his new teachings. They resisted Him, despite what they saw and heard from Him. Nicodemus was afraid, yet he came. Because he was sincere in his search for the truth, and wanted to know.

Jesus received him with compassion. He referred to his colleagues' resistance to the light He bore, and the new salvation which He preached. Then He revealed to him the mystery of the Kingdom, and the New Covenant that He began by His Incarnation, then by giving His life on the Cross. Jesus spoke to him about all of this. He spoke about the Cross metaphorically, in the image of the copper serpent that Moses had raised before the people and was a sign of salvation. Nicodemus did not understand, nor believed at that time, but he did not reject faith. He received the words he heard, and kept them until the day, when God will give him to believe.

It may happen that we too want to know the truth and are afraid to know it, because knowing it may mean committing ourselves to positions that are sometimes countercurrent, or attitudes of “difficult” love, or commitment to engage in the making of the difficult peace. Sometimes, we want to know, but we are afraid to know. We are afraid to see the light, so that we do not see all the evil that is accumulated in us, and all the good we should do.

Lord Jesus' words to Nicodemus yesterday, Jesus tells them to us today. How much are we afraid from knowing Jesus Christ? We believed in Him, because we inherited a traditional faith made of rituals and external practices. The question is: Have we transformed our faith from “inherited tradition” to a “personal choice?”Is our faith as a new life in us, above the life of the Earth that changes our life and inspires all our positions?

SATURDAY, JANUARY 25, 2020

The week of prayer for Christian Unity

During this week, Christians all over the world pray for the unity of the Church. They repeat Lord Jesus’ prayer: “Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us…May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.22 I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one.23 With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17: 11. 22-23).

Jerusalem Church today is many Churches. All believe in Jesus Christ. Throughout history, differences appeared in the “correct expression" of faith. Churches became divided and separated. The separation still persists. The division attributed to the “correct expression” was increased by ethnical and national feelings, by feelings of hostility and rejection of the other. Although the sign of truth in the Christian faith and in the life of any Christian is love, love is the way to truth. There is a big difference between brothers who love each other and look for the truth, and brothers who look for the truth while they are divided, and everyone wants to defend one’s own position. No matter how the Christians disagree, no matter where the truth is, who has changed love in his heart with a hostile spirit, is far from truth and unity.

Lord Jesus said: "God loved the world". Just as God loves us, we have to love one another. With love we can be one. Without love, we will remain “searchers of unity” without reaching it. The unity among Christians is first love like the love of God, love for every brother and sister, in whatever Church they are. When love is there, the search for the “correct expression” of truth becomes sincere and possible.

All are responsible for this walk towards unity, heads of the Churches and believers. Whoever loves is from God. “Who does not love his brother is not from God”. (1 John 3: 6) Narrow sectarianism stifles love and prevents unity, no matter how studies progress. The words of John the Apostle are clear. If love is absent, the truth is absent, and transforms one’s faith into hypocrisy. The first step towards unity is love. It is also praying as Jesus himself prayed. Unity is a gift from God; it will be a fruit of Christians’ love for each other.

Everyone remains in his Church, in his faith traditions and liturgy. Diversity is not contradiction to love. Everyone remains faithful to his Church, and everyone loves all his brothers and sisters in all Churches. This is the first step towards unity.

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