4th Sunday of Lent (B); March 11, 2018
2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21
Deacon Jim McFadden
“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). These words should fill us with joy and hope as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises realized in the Resurrection. These words were first spoken to Nicodemus, who is a stand-in for us. He came to Jesus in the Dark, unwilling to be seen as a follower of the one they are calling the Messiah. Nicodemus is wrestling whether to stay in the Darkness or to embrace the Light of Christ in order to build a better tomorrow.
We all come to Christ from the Shadow: we have our doubts; we have our questions. We live in a society that every year seems to becoming more and more secularized. It ranges from the simple name changes–Easter vacation has become Spring Break; Christmas season is now the ubiquitous holiday season–to a society that focuses on the individual to the point of disregarding those in most need: the unborn, the young; the poor; the elderly. Businesses often exploit the poor and reduce human beings to “factors of production,” who can be discarded when cheaper labor may be found elsewhere. Some businesses in cooperation with governments tolerate the abuse of our environment, robbing future generations of the resources and quality of life they’ll need to live a decent and humane life.
But we can step out of the Shadow, because the word of God is a word of unbounded hope: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us that there is a God who cares for us and who can make a radical difference in our lives and that of our communities if we accept His Son as our Savior. By believing in Jesus, we enter into a life shared with God and we have a life that is eternal, which is the foundation that gives us hope to build a better future.
Just as the Persian king Cyrus was called by God to allow the exiled Jews to return to Israel and to build God’s temple, we are called to embrace radical transformation of ourselves and our world. We know that such rebuilding can happen because, as St. Paul reminds us, that “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). We know that God actively dwells within the hearts of people who put their faith in Christ. We have been reborn in Baptism, we have been made into the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are united with our brothers and sisters throughout the world as the Body of Christ. And, we know that as believers of Jesus we are called to acknowledge the power of his presence within us and our Church and to share the gift of his love and forgiveness with the world. As believers of Jesus, we readily accept His Mission: to become messengers of that merciful love within our families, parishes, schools, and workplaces—in fact, in every sector of social and political life.
People of God, now is the tough part: like Nicodemus the Gospel is challenging us to take action. “And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light, and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God (vs 20-21). It is not the time to think about or talk about what we believe but to live passionately its truth. Truth is something we do; it’s a lifestyle. We believe that Truth is a Person; when we live the Truth, we are living in Christ and that relational Power can transform us and our world. We are being called to embrace the gospel of doing—of walking in the Flesh of Christ.
When people see us, they should experience a community of unbounded hope because we know that God promises us the strength to realize the Gospel promises. As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, God created us in Christ Jesus “to live the good life”, a life of good deeds in accordance with his will (Eph 2:10). Jesus
has given us his commandments to love God without reservations and to love ourselves and others not as a burden or barriers to overcome, but to liberate us—to be a source of freedom. As we abide in Christ Jesus, as we come out of the Shadows into His Light, we will become men and women of wisdom, we will be teachers and doers of justice and peace. We will believe in the goodness of others from conception to natural death. We will be instruments to promote the Common Good. God has created us to do this and we should not be afraid to be builders of a better tomorrow!