4th SUNDAY OF LENT
Jn 3:14-21. Jesus said to Nicodemus:.....
Jesus speaks here in a tone of paradox: humanly divine, personally cosmic.
‘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.
In the desert of Lent ‘fiery serpents’ appeared biting and killing many. Moses made a bronze serpent, erected it on a staff and whoever looked at it was healed. Looking at the Cross is to face and transcend mortality. Looking, seeing. Contemplation heals. Eternal life is more than just not dying. It is to die without fear, to live without fear of either death or life.
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.
Jesus reveals himself through the founding myth of his people in terms they recognise even though it bursts out of the confines of myth and leads them (and us if we listen) into a direct experience. Crucially, he says he has ‘been sent’. Knowing this is to know that he carries God’s love directly to humanity and to each human being. This is as simple as difficult for us to accept as it was for Nicodemus.
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
Our idea of God is a superego projection. It says we will be rewarded for being good and if we aren’t, we are condemned. Jesus throws this image of God, of a god, straight into the fire of the Burning Bush. All ‘condemnation’ is now seen as self-condemnation. ‘Refusing to believe’ means hardening our hearts, refusing to leave the prison cell even after we have heard the call to freedom. But we are not punished twice for our refusal. It is a self-inflicted wound. Once is enough. But the divine therapist, healing the world, waits. If one kind of treatment doesn’t get through to us, another will. As I have just had the first vaccination, forgive me if I compare this to refusing it.
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.’
Life carries moral responsibility. To do nothing is to do wrong. It is darkness because we can’t see what we are doing. A new light has broken into our dark minds but darkness remains more familiar, easier. Religion without the light of wisdom conspires with darkness without knowing it. Jesus transcends religion, even the one that carries his name. The truth is relentless in exposing our double-standards and hypocrisy. When we let go and surrender to the truth, there is nowhere to hide. Then we see that it is all love’s work and always has been.
Lenten Reflections 2021