Monday, March 5, 2018

Jesus, the Light of the World - Mar. 11, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Lent - Year B

Reading I:  2 Chronicles 36:
                    14-16, 19-23

 Psalm:  137

Reading II:  Ephesians 2:4-10

Gospel:  John 3:14-21

One of the most beautiful experiences we are blessed to have is to see a sunrise. We know that the sun is always in the cosmos, but we do not see it during the night.  How thrilling it is to watch the gradual return of the sun to our view! First, we see a vague bit of light, followed by gorgeous colors which absorb our attention. Then, pieces of the sun appear.  Finally, the sun in all its glory delights our senses.

The Gospel story of Nicodemus can be compared to a sunrise. In the midst of spiritual darkness, a flicker of light appears. Nicodemus is impressed with this Jesus. Not only is he a great teacher, but he also can perform miracles. Nicodemus decides that since there is something special about Jesus, he would like to talk with him. However, it must be private and secret because he is a Pharisee, a Rabbi, and a member of the Sanhedrin. If any people knew he was talking with Jesus, he might be accused of collaborating with an enemy.

Under the cover of darkness, Nicodemus visits Jesus because he believes that he must be a man of God if he can perform miracles. Jesus, however, turns the conversation in a surprising direction. He tells Nicodemus that He [Jesus] must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. Nicodemus wrestles with that within himself for a while. Why would one who could perform miracles, allow such a fate for himself? Nicodemus had come to Jesus with only a partial faith.

How could Nicodemus know the depths of God’s love that would enable Him to send His only begotten son into the world to suffer and die for our sins? The Father was sending His Son as light into the darkness.

It would take time for this seeker to get to know Jesus better and observe his self-sacrificing goodness before he could grasp a bit of the incredible love of God. As Nicodemus deepens his relationship with Jesus, it is as if some of the beautiful colors accompanying the sunrise are appearing over the horizon.

We know the growth of  Nicodemus’ faith when he attempts to protect Jesus from condemnation saying: “According to our Law we cannot condemn a man before hearing him and finding out what he has done.” The accusers respond, “Well, are you also from Galilee? Study the Scriptures and you will learn that no prophet ever comes from Galilee.”  Nicodemus’ deeper relationship with Jesus enables him to willingly accept the ridicule.

Finally, when Jesus has indeed been lifted up and suffered as our Savior, Nicodemus assists Joseph of Arimathea, wrapping Jesus’ body in linens and spices in preparation for his burial. They place his body in a new tomb close by because it is the day before the Sabbath. At last, Nicodemus can openly display his belief in Jesus and express his love by his tender care for the body of Jesus. Like the sunrise in all its beauty, the light of Christ is now bursting forth in the
heart of Nicodemus.

 Question for Reflection: 
  How can I deepen my relationship with Jesus so that I am able to willingly sacrifice for him?

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...

Jesús, la luz del mundo

Una de las experiencias más bellas que tenemos la bendición de tener es ver un amanecer. Sabemos que el sol siempre está en el cosmos, pero no lo vemos durante la noche. ¡Qué emocionante es ver el retorno gradual del sol a nuestra vista! Primero, vemos un poco de luz, seguido de hermosos colores que absorben nuestra atención. Entonces, aparecen trozos del sol. Finalmente, el sol en todo su esplendor deleita nuestros sentidos.

La historia del Evangelio de Nicodemo se puede comparar con un amanecer. En medio de la oscuridad espiritual, aparece un destello de luz. Nicodemo está impresionado con este Jesús. No solo es un gran maestro, sino que también puede realizar milagros. Nicodemo decide que, dado que hay algo especial acerca de Jesús, le gustaría hablar con él. Sin embargo, debe ser privado y secreto porque él es un fariseo, un rabino y un miembro del Sanedrín. Si alguna gente supiera que estaba hablando con Jesús, podría ser acusado de colaborar con un enemigo.

Bajo la cobertura de la oscuridad, Nicodemo visita a Jesús porque cree que debe ser un hombre de Dios si puede realizar milagros. Jesús, sin embargo, gira la conversación en una dirección sorprendente. Él le dice a Nicodemo que Él [Jesús] debe ser levantado, para que todos los que creen en Él puedan tener vida eterna. Nicodemo lucha con eso dentro de sí mismo por un tiempo. ¿Por qué alguien que podría hacer milagros, permitir tal destino para sí mismo? Nicodemo había venido a Jesús con solo una fe parcial.

¿Cómo podría Nicodemo conocer las profundidades del amor de Dios que le permitiría enviar a su único hijo al mundo para sufrir y morir por nuestros pecados? El Padre estaba enviando a Su Hijo como luz a la oscuridad.

Le tomaría tiempo a este buscador llegar a conocer mejor a Jesús y observar su bondad abnegada antes de poder captar un poco del increíble amor de Dios. A medida que Nicodemo profundiza su relación con Jesús, es como si algunos de los bellos colores que acompañan al amanecer aparecieran en el horizonte.

Conocemos el crecimiento de la fe de Nicodemo cuando intenta proteger a Jesús de la condena diciendo: “De acuerdo con nuestra Ley, no podemos condenar a un hombre antes de escucharlo y descubrir lo que ha hecho”. Los acusadores responden: “Bueno, ¿tú también eres tú? de Galilea? Estudia las Escrituras y aprenderás que ningún profeta viene de Galilea”. La relación más profunda de Nicodemo con Jesús le permite aceptar voluntariamente el ridículo.

Finalmente, cuando Jesús en verdad ha sido levantado y sufrido como nuestro Salvador, Nicodemo asiste a José de Arimatea, envolviendo el cuerpo de Jesús en lino y especias en preparación para su entierro. Colocan su cuerpo en una nueva tumba cerca porque es el día antes del sábado. Finalmente, Nicodemo puede mostrar abiertamente su creencia en Jesús y expresar su amor con su tierno cuidado del cuerpo de Jesús. Como la salida del sol en toda su belleza, la luz de Cristo ahora estalla en el corazón de Nicodemo.

  Pregunta de reflexión:   ¿Cómo puedo profundizar mi relación con Jesús para poder sacrificar voluntariamente por él?


  1. It must have been a season of great unrest for Nicodemus as he allowed the teachings of Jesus to penetrate his thinking and challenge his own beliefs. Nicodemus heard Jesus speak of love of God and neighbor, and he no doubt felt the power of loving kindness and justice that emanated through Jesus. Little did Nicodemus know that he was on the threshold of discovering a deeper faith and of becoming a new being in Christ.
    Jesus introduced Nicodemus to the spiritual principle of being born again from above – born anew in Spirit. Jesus questioned how Nicodemus could be a teacher of Israel and yet not understand the doctrines Jesus taught. Jesus also spoke of eternal life – promised to believers who act in truth and come into the light.
    In an article entitled, “Nicodemus and the Importance of Questions,” (Anglican Parish of Stirling), the unnamed author shares his perspective of the thoughts that may have passed through Nicodemus’ mind:
    “As a Pharisee, have I got my priorities wrong? If I practice the letter of the law but use that legalism as a substitute for love of God and neighbor, do I focus on a superficial conformity, and lose the Spirit that is meant to give life? Is there a spiritual reality that could make my life more meaningful and connected to God’s purposes? If I come to accept Jesus’ teaching fully, it would change everything. One minute I believe that this change is life giving and I want to embrace it. The next minute, it all becomes overwhelming because it affects my understanding of God so deeply and it asks me to make a commitment that could be dangerous. I see in Jesus’ face the knowledge that being true to his convictions might cost him his life …I’m not sure I would be ready to be counted as his follower when other religious leaders decide they want to be rid of the challenge he represents. Sometimes I wish I had never heard of Jesus. However, I can’t help but ask myself: Do I merely want my religious practices to be comfortable and familiar, or do I really want to discover new life and enter the kingdom of God?” We can sense Nicodemus’ inner turmoil as his evolving new faith identity clashes with his established social identity.
    How many of us have the courage to ask, “Do I want comfortable and familiar religious practices or do I really want to discover new life and enter the kingdom of God? Have you ever been in a social situation where fear of disrupting the gathering caused you to not speak up when your faith or beliefs were threatened? I did, some 30 years ago. I was a guest at a small get-together and a woman I did not know, started bashing Catholicism and morality. I was stunned that anyone would ever do such a thing and I remember the nausea, heart palpitations and trembling I experienced. I desperately wanted to counter her arguments. The urge to defend my beliefs was like a volcano erupting inside me ready to spew out burning embers to eradicate her ignorant words but I couldn’t even speak. I wound up leaving the party deeply regretting my silence to this day. Never again. There is no extinguishing Spirit’s fire.
    In trying to discern if he should openly follow Jesus, Nicodemus at some point realized he could no longer maintain his current posture. The next time we see him, Nicodemus is risking his status by challenging his fellow Pharisees in arguing for a hearing before condemning Jesus. After the crucifixion, Nicodemus is with Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus’ body. By doing so, Nicodemus abandons his ritual purity and is unable to participate in the Passover the next day.
    It is apparent that Nicodemus has given up any pretense to secrecy. He is by now so deeply a disciple of Jesus that even after Jesus’ execution – he risks any social standing he has to pay his last respects. The Spirit has done just what Jesus said; he breathed where he chose, and Nicodemus was born anew; born again; born from above (“Nicodemus visits Jesus in the night,” Anglican Parish of Stirling).
    Pat C., ASBS

  2. Sr. Therese M. Warner, SBSMarch 6, 2018 at 8:58 AM

    Yes, the Gospel story about Nicodemus is certainly an inspiring one! "Like the sunrise in all its beauty, the light of Christ is now bursting forth in the heart of Nicodemus." What a wonderfully moving observation, Sister!

    The following selections are from a homily by Father Rene Butler:

    "Because of the Chosen Peoples' infidelity, God had allowed their city to be destroyed and sent them into exile. Now, as described in the First Reading, He inspires the pagan king to let the exiles return home and rebuild Jerusalem. He gives back the gift He already gave and took away."

    "The gift in question is the gift of faith. This is why we keep celebrating what we call 'the mystery of faith', that wondrous, mysterious gift, the true relationship that unites us to God and the community of believers."

    "Faith was a gift when we first received it. It is still and always a gift. We enter it more and more deeply. It becomes more and more personal. Any time it is threatened, even simply by being taken for granted, it becomes more precious than ever when we remember once again the gift and the Giver."

    "There is a principle in the spiritual life to this effect: 'Go back to where God is waiting for you. Never forget the moment when you first knew that you truly believed. Go back to that moment. God is still waiting for you there, ready to renew and enrich the gift, over and over again!'"

    Fr. Rene Butler, MS
    Director, La Salette Shrine
    Enfield, NH