The readings show a striking contrast: sin and punishment in the First Reading, and the declaration, in the Gospel, of the gratuitous salvation that God offers to every person. But, what’s salvation? And how do we access it? Let’s us be inspired by the bravery of Nicodemus who crosses the line; from darkness to light.
Bible Readings 2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23 Psalm 137: 1-6 Ephesians 2: 4-10 John 3: 14-21
Sin and punishment
In the first reading we have the people of Israel who, under the influence of pagan nations, desacralize their alliance with God. When God sends them messengers to remind them of their identity they scorn them. Obstinate, despite the grace period given them, the people expose themselves to disastrous consequences of their rebellion. Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken into exile. However, the reading does not end on the sombre note –there’s a ray of sunshine in the horizons.
God mobilises all the means, even a pagan king, to save his people. Such extravagance of God, for the salvation of his people, will be fulfilled in his son whom he will not spare even from death on the cross. Such boundless love of God is put in evidence in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
Nicodemus, example of our hesitation
Nicodemus is confronted with a decisive choice to make. He’s part of the Jewish notables, judges who form the assembly called the Sanhedrin. This group, officially against Jesus, is determined to eliminate him by all means. Given the circumstances, it’s a lot easier for a member of a Sanhedrin who personally shares the sentiments of aversion against Jesus than the one who’s sympathetic to him. The latter not only will he be taken for traitor, by the group, but risks also his career. That’s the dilemma of Nicodemus. Even when he makes a legitimate observation, Nicodemus is attacked personally simply because it’s in defence of Jesus: “‘Does our law convict a man without first hearing from him to determine what he has done?’ ‘Aren’t you also from Galilee?’ they replied” (Jn 7:51-52). Nicodemus is caught between what he believes about Jesus and the opposing attitude of the Sanhedrin to which he belongs.
Our own dilemma
Here we have not just a beautiful intriguing biblical scenario but also an actual, agonising puzzle that some Christians are confronted with even today. Indeed, the tension of double loyalty can be draining. We know the right thing to do that our faith inspires us, yet, we find ourselves oscillating between two, opposing points. And so, we succumb to pressure from friends, work, or our business and we don’t arrive to speak out what’s deep in our hearts because of the conflicting interests. We measure things out: our security and that of our dear ones, and the repercussions that our action may have on our career…. What a stressful tension to live!
Crossing the line; from darkness to light
Nicodemus doesn’t remain wavering; he resolves to act timidly though. He goes to see Jesus at night. Not only does he cross the line from darkness to light but he also acknowledges Jesus as “Rabbi”, that is, he opens himself to be instructed.
Lent is equally out time to make bold decision about our life; it’s a time for crossing from darkness to light. The Gospel of John plays with contrasts: life and death, light and darkness, above and below. In such contrast, there’s a decision to make; and the choice one makes determines whether he’s for life or for death. That’s why, for John, God pronounces judgement on no one; it all depends on the decision that each person takes –for life or for death.
We can only pray, then, that we too, like Nicodemus, we may be bold enough to cross the line from darkness to light. To be born again is taking a daring step for life.
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