Week 4

See and do what is done in God

Introduction 

I taught Religious Education in Catholic schools for many years and, whether correctly or incorrectly, I often thought about the subject as a journey from the head to the heart. What I hoped and prayed for was a journey from the heart to the head would take place in every student I taught. 

The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent presents the head and heart as a dipole: there is movement between the two “extremes,” much like breathing. I am reminded at this point in writing of a song I sing from time to time: “Breathe in me, Breath of God, my spirit yearns for you.” The Holy Spirit accompanies us as we journey through life and through the power of the Spirit, we seek to conquer our temporal and eternal destinies, as Cardinal Joseph Cardijn spoke about to the leaders in the Young Christian Workers movement last century. 

Lent is a good time to think about our shared Christian faith as paradox. Nicodemus chooses to visit Jesus at night, presumably because he was afraid of being seen with Jesus. God says, “I can work with that.” Through Jesus, God leads us out of darkness into light, just as he led his People out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land; and just as he will lead us from darkness to light when we celebrate the Easter Vigil in a few weeks from now. 

The Gospel 

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up

as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost

but may have eternal life.

For God sent his Son into the world

not to condemn the world,

but so that through him the world might be saved.

No one who believes in him will be condemned;

but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,

because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.

On these grounds is sentence pronounced:

that though the light has come into the world

men have shown they prefer darkness to the light

because their deeds were evil.

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 out into the light,

so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’ (John 3:14-21)

The Enquiry 

See

  • What is the context for this Gospel reading? Read chapter 3 of John’s Gospel to gain a clear view of the evangelist’s intention to draw out the themes of darkness/sin and death and light/redemption and resurrection. Take some time to think about how these themes play out in your life. Have you ever come to Jesus under the cover of darkness to seek answers to questions that bother you? What happened?  
  • What does Jesus reveal about God’s Will? Why does it have to happen this way, that Jesus “must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert”? Is Jesus talking about the mystery of God and the mystery of sin and redemption?  
  • From what Jesus says, what are the consequences that flow from the Son of God being present in the world? Choose one thing he says that you find to be particularly relevant to you at present and list for yourself what is happening, when it happens and how often. Do you recognise Jesus being present in that part of your life? How do you acknowledge that to yourself and to him?  

Judge

  • On one level, we find ourselves in the middle of a chapter in Jesus’ life. Look at what has gone before this meeting with Nicodemus and what follows the meeting. What do you learn about other people’s perceptions of Jesus? How does Jesus address those perceptions in his conversation with Nicodemus?  
  • Step back from the story and look for other levels. Think about what his presence in the world says about the mystery of God. What do you want to acknowledge as being true about God?
  • How is your faith challenged by what you have read and thought about? Is there anything here that Jesus says that gives you some comfort, some hope? 

Act

  • This Gospel is about the Easter experience. What do you want to change about society and its messages about Easter? Is Easter really only about Easter eggs, hot cross buns, tasty food, family and friends? A holiday? Or is Easter about paradox? About conquering sin and death? What do you want to change? 
  • What small action can you take that will contribute to bringing about this change? When and where will you carry out the action and how often? 
  • Who can you involve in your action and how, when and how often will you get them to participate in your action?

Author: Pat Branson 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons (Creator),  Picryl, Public Domain

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