READINGS: 2 Chr. 36: 14-26, 19-23; Eph. 2: 4-10; John 3: 14-21
Today’s Gospel reading starts halfway through Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus and, while the Gospel of John can sometimes be hard to follow, it tells us something important if we look at what is going on before verse 14 begins.
As Chapter Three of John’s Gospel begins, we learn of a Jewish Pharisee, who visits Jesus under cover of darkness in order to question him. Nicodemus was clearly afraid of being seen with Jesus in the daylight as he held a high teaching position. Perhaps Nicodemus was thinking: ‘What would others think if I was honestly seeking truth from this Jesus?’
As Nicodemus questions Jesus it is clear from the Gospel that he is not trying to trap Him but to learn from Him. Nicodemus then is an honest seeker of truth and Jesus, who had had such conflicts with other Pharisees, surprisingly welcomed the questions. An honest seeker of truth and a teacher willing to entertain questions openly! How amazing and refreshing.
It is with this prelude that today’s section of Chapter Three is remarkable as Jesus does not scold or belittle anyone, even the other Pharisees, but speaks of God’s great love for humanity and the promise of eternal life for believers. Nicodemus’ questions were answered in the most radical way possible- that God loves him and promises life if he believes.
So how might this help us on the Fourth Sunday of Lent? I think as we look at our nation we see increasing polarization and dehumanization of others. Some political leaders, along with corporate media, rather than encouraging dialogue and listening stir up fear and hatred, probably to drive up ratings. Today Jesus reminds us that as Christians we have no enemies, we are all brothers and sisters, called to listen and pray for those who oppose us, even those who wish to destroy the Church. This is not a form of pollyannish thinking but a recognition that sometimes violent opponents of Jesus were turned around by the Holy Spirit (e.g. St. Paul and even St. Augustine). Second, the example of Nicodemus reminds us that there are people, who may not be Christian or even a believer of God, who are honestly seeking truth, and it is our responsibility not to demonize them but listen, learn and show by our lives a living Christ.
So, during this Fourth Sunday of Lent perhaps we can try to turn off the television, social media, and cell phones’ chimes in order to listen, reflect and pray for those whom we see as ‘enemies’. Then ask the Lord for the humility, grace, and courage to listen to what those around us are saying (starting with our family).
Please remember to support the Mission Doctors Association with donations and pray as they put love into action daily around the world.
God bless and have a good Fourth Sunday of Lent.