Jn 3.14-21                 2Chron 36.14-16, 19-23              Eph 2.4-10

Here we are again, now more than half-way through Lent, and the Grade 3’s know what it’s all about, as they talked to me about the colour purple for the season, and the 40 days leading up to Easter, some even questioning the sense of the term ‘good’ for Good Friday, when, in fact, it was hardly good in a human sense.  I agreed with them, suggesting that the French title ‘Venerdi Saint’, or ‘Holy Friday’ might be more apt! And then, on the practical side, each classroom had on display a Project Compassion box, to remind them of the need to not just know about and think of those in need in our world, but to also do something to contribute to their support.

This day is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, symbolic of relieving the old penitential spirit and discipline of Lent, to remind the faithful of the fact that we don’t have to go in sackcloth and ashes all the way, but that Easter is the culmination of the season, and not the sombre darkness of Good Friday, that, in human terms, ended it all, with the death of Jesus. (Tangential questions like “Is the Easter Bunny real?” were best left unanswered!)

Good old, or maybe young, Nicodemus, is a searcher for truth, with an open mind, coming from the group of Jewish religious leaders, some of whom consistently felt threatened by, and so rejected Jesus and his teaching, questioning his authority.  Yet, they were clearly aware that he had credibility, and that the locals tuned in to him with enthusiasm, were open to his message and keen to hear more, as opposed to those who thought they knew better.

In his commentary on today’s readings, Michael McGirr suggests that Nicodemus was not satisfied with the way he was, and was looking for change in his life, so that he might be a better person.  Coming to Jesus under cover of darkness was his first step forward in questioning faith, and after the personal encounter, he recedes into the darkness again.

This is a story of growth in faith through questioning and understanding, with Nicodemus popping up at various points in John’s Gospel, appearing again from the darkness, perhaps through fear, but also through uncertainty, as he follows Jesus at a distance, (Jn 7.50-52), a growing believer still, until he finally comes into the light at the end (Jn 19.39-42),  where he brings the precious oils, in order to assist with the anointing of Jesus’ body before burial.  The irony is here that he comes into the open as a true believer in Jesus at the moment of greatest failure, but only in human terms, not in terms of faith.

As scripture scholar Raymond Brown describes it, here “Jesus proclaims for the first time the basic Johannine theology of salvific incarnation. He is God’s Son come into the world, bringing God’s own life, so that everyone who believes in him has eternal life and thus is already judged.” (described as realized eschatology!)  this is the culmination of John’s portrayal of Jesus on the cross “fulfilling Jesus’ promise to draw all to him once he had been lifted up” (Jn 12.32).

Once again, I quote from Michael McGirr’s reflection for today: “Every Lent, through Project Compassion, Caritas Australia asks us to help bring light into the world and to make positive change. An example is presented to us this week in the story of Memory, a young woman from rural Malawi, the eldest child in a family living at the level of subsistence farming.

Listen to some of Memory’s words: ‘Growing up in the village was not easy. My parents don’t have a job, so they depend on farming. When the season goes wrong, we suffer a lot and become food insecure. Sometimes we need to bathe without soap. Sometimes we need to walk without shoes.’

With the support of Caritas Australia and its partner the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM), Memory was able to enrol at a technical college where she learnt practical skills in carpentry. A new life became possible. She can now realise her full potential and offer more to her family and her community.

Today, the letter to the Ephesians reminds us that every person is ‘God’s work of art.’ God is the artist who never signs off on a painting but is always trying to make it better. Perhaps we can see the world in the same way.

And so, once again,  let’s not forget to keep up our ongoing contributions to Caritas Australia through Project Compassion.

john hannon                                                                                    10th  March  2024


2 Chronicles 36:1416, 1923   I   Ephesians 2:410   I   John 3:1421


Written by Michael McGirr:

We have all lived through a great deal of change. Even young people have seen plenty. ChatGPT is a recent development and so are electric cars. Older people can remember having a phone plugged into a socket that you couldn’t carry around with you. Sometimes we have discussions about the good old days. They are often tinged with nostalgia for things we miss and gratitude for improvements. We no longer need to buy film for our cameras or change typewriter ribbons. Climate change is deeply troubling. Many medical improvements are inspiring.

Change can certainly be frightening. It can also be an occasion of great hope. Jesus seems to have understood this. Nicodemus comes across as a character who is looking for change in his life, but he is nervous about it, so he comes to see Jesus under cover of darkness. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus uses the image of being born again. Of starting all over again. It is a dramatic description of change.

Jesus says that the light has come into the world and that people prefer the same old darkness. They are set in their ways.

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