April 2, 2000 -- 4th Sunday of Lent "B"
2 Ch 36, 14...23; Eph 2, 4-10; John 3,14-21
H O M I L Y
In the Gospel readings of the last several Sundays, led by Mark at first, and then by John, we have followed Jesus through the first months of his public life. We have witnessed the powerful moment of his baptism, and then his temptation in the desert. We have seen him choosing his disciples and changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana. And we saw him expel the money changers from the Temple.
Many were those who believed in him because of his first miracles. A few unhesitantly believed with deep faith. Others refused to believe and violently rejected him. But the great majority had a middle-of-the-road, ambiguous faith: a mixture of natural religiosity and natural attraction towards the extraordinary or the miraculous; a faith without too much commitment.
One of those ambiguous believers was Nicodemus. I really like Nicodemus, because he is so much one of us. He believes but does not have the courage to assume all the consequences of his faith totally; nevertheless Jesus takes him seriously. Being a doctor in Israel he knows the Scriptures. He can see that God is with Jesus, but does not go as far as to recognize that God is in Jesus. He comes to him in order to know more, but he comes during the night. He is a seeker, a seeker in the darkness. His faith will grow but he will always remain somewhat ambiguous. He feels close to Jesus but he also stays away from him. He will be there at the time of Jesus' burial, but not too close.
Today's Gospel reading is taken from the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus as reported in the first chapters of John's Gospel. Jesus takes Nicodemus where he is on his journey and leads him further. Exactly what He does with us when we come to Him in our own darkness. Nicodemus had come to look for light in darkness; they don't go together, and Jesus challenged him to choose between light and darkness.
The real light is the one of Transfiguration: it implies death and it requires the doing of truth. Salvation is not for those of have vague beliefs but for those who act in truth or, to translate the Greek literally, those who "do the truth".
The newness of Jesus' message appears here in all its light. The message is that God is not an eternally immobile first principle. God has a future and His future is in men's hands. Salvation is not at the end of history, but is part op it. The cross is planted at the heart of human history, at the heart of a world devoured by strife and misery. The world of the mighty where the lowly are trampled upon was the world that Jesus knew, the world that put him to death, the world that he came to redeem.
It was by assuming human misery that Jesus made it possible for us to be delivered from it. Not through miracles -- the signs that the Pharisees demanded as a proof of his messiahship -- but through a transfiguration of men's eyes and hearts. Today the Cross of Christ is planted at the heart of Kosovo, of Middle East, of Congo and of so many other parts of the world, in this third millennium coming to birth through so much pain and groaning. The future of these countries and of their people -- which is our future and God's future -- depends on us. It depends on whether our eyes are transformed enough to allow us to see the sign of the cross planted in the midst of that suffering and bleeding humankind.