07 March 2018

'For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . .' Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) directed by Philip Saville
[Today's Gospel ends at 3:10]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel John 3:14-21 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

The readings for Year A may be used instead of those above.
Nicodemus, Unknown Flemish Master [Web Gallery of Art]

The Pharisees generally have a bad name and the adjective 'pharisaical' is defined in Merriam-Webster as marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness. Those words could certainly describe most of the Pharisees we meet in the gospels. But they do not apply to Nicodemus. He was patently a good man who said to Jesus when he met him at night, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God (John 3:2). He was also with Jesus at the end helping to prepare for the burial. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds (John 19:39).

This good Pharisee can help us come to the light, especially when that involves walking through the darkness. Physical darkness is part of the reality that God has given us and can protect us from the cosmic powers of this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12), as it did Nicodemus when he came by night to visit Jesus.

God has given us many examples of persons willing to confront the cosmic powers of this present darkness even at the risk of their lives. One such person is Patience Mollè Lobè, a widow now aged 60 and member of the Focolare Movement. An engineer, she became a very senior official in the Department of Public Works in Cameroon. She saw at first hand the powers of darkness in the corruption she encountered there. Here she relates how attempts were made three times to kill her.

Patience Mollè Lobè is yet another example of a layperson living fully the vision of Vatican II. So many have the idea that carrying out a particular kind of liturgical service, eg, being a reader, is what being a good lay Catholic is all about. It's much more than that. It is a way of life in following Jesus, living every moment according to the Gospel, bringing the values of Jesus into every human situation. In the words of St Paul in today's Second ReadingFor we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life (Ephesians 2:10).

Many of us have known persons like Patience Mollè Lobè, some of whom have died for confronting the cosmic powers of this present darkness. Their witness to Jesus and the Gospel brings us the light of hope and proves the truth of his words today, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Antiphona ad introitum
Entrance Antiphon (Cf Isaiah 60:10-11)

Laetare, Jerusalem, et conventum facite, omnes qui diligitis eam;
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.
gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis,
Be joyful, all who were in mourning;
ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.
exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.

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