Third Sunday of Lent
Year B : 18th March 2012
Nicodemus bore a Greek name, so presumably
he spoke Greek as well as Aramaic. He was well
off since he brought 100 pounds weight of spices
to Jesus’ burial. He belonged to the ruling
Council of the Jews. An upright man, he reminded
his colleagues that Jesus deserved a fair trial
and was told off by them [John 7.50]. He is
attracted by the teaching of Jesus and comes
to find out more, but he comes at night. He
does have some measure of faith: [He says to
Jesus: “We know you are a teacher from God”].
For St John the dark means unbelief, and Nicodemus
comes out of the night to ‘the light of men,
a light that shines in the darkness, a light
that darkness could not overpower’ [John 1,5].
[Book of Numbers: 21,8-9] ‘The people lost
patience and spoke against God and against Moses:
“Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in
this wilderness? For there is neither bread
nor water here.” At this God sent fiery serpents
among them; their bite brought death to many
in Israel. The people said to Moses. “We have
sinned . . . intercede for us with the Lord
. . .” The Lord answered, “Make a fiery serpent
and put it on a standard. If anyone bitten looks
at the standard, he will live”. So Moses fashioned
a bronze serpent which he put on a standard’.
‘They were given a symbol of salvation to
remind them of the commandment of your Law.
Whoever turned to it was saved, not by what
he looked at, but by you, the saviour of all’
[Book of Wisdom 16,6].
‘Over the House of David and the citizens of
Jerusalem I will pour out a spirit of kindness
and prayer. They shall look on the one whom
they have pierced; they will mourn for him as
for an only son, and weep for him as people
weep for a first-born child’ [Zechariah 12,10].
‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’
The word ‘believe’ occurs five times: ‘Everyone
who believes’ occurs twice.
Believing means acceptance that this is true,
but it also means commitment to what is believed,
in this case belief in and commitment to a person.
Refusal and the actions that flow from rejection
of belief result in judgment. Whether to believe
or not to believe is the moment of crisis, of
decision. [In Greek the word krisis means ‘decision’].
Judgment results from the decision one takes.
The choice is whether or not to accept the gift
of God, his Son raised on the cross (like the
serpent) and also exalted on high, risen from
the dead to the Father’s right hand. In this
setting ‘to look on’ means to adore and recognise
the love of God demonstrated and raised up for
all the world to see.
• God became man to make humanity aware in
Christ how God views life and the purpose
of life. God’s view of things was comprehensively
rejected because it challenged what had become
the accepted view of where political, national
and religious truth and stability were to
be found: the Roman empire, the political
freedom of Israel, strict adherence to the
Law of Moses, the Temple, etc. ‘The freedom
of the children of God’ is an attitude not
limited by such boundaries.
• What do I see when I look a crucifix? Does
my mind compare it with other crosses I have
seen and criticise the design? “That is a
really nice crucifix”. Have I a crucifix in
a prominent place at home? How did I choose
it (if it wasn’t a wedding present from my
great-aunt)? Does my mind always see behind
the shape to consider the suffering involved?
• In the early Church the cross was seen
as the proof of the depth of the love of God.
When many of us were younger great emphasis
was placed on devotions like the Stations
of the Cross and the Sorrowful Mysteries of
the Rosary where we became familiar with what
and how Jesus suffered. Prayers learnt at
that time, like the ‘En ego’ or ‘Soul of Christ
sanctify me’, drew in the Passion as part
of normal devotion. Nowadays we put more emphasis
on the Resurrection of Christ. Do I pay less
attention than I did to the life of Jesus
on earth as man as well as God, going to the
cross for me, and perhaps appreciate the love
of God less than I might?
• Jesus went to Calvary as
a result of the decisions of people who made
free choices, for whatever reason. Some may
have thought they were right. Some may have
seen one man’s death as better than trouble
with Rome. Some may have feared disorder in
the streets. Some saw an attack on traditional
religious practice. Some saw a lack of respect
for proper religious authority. Some may have
feared or been jealous of his popularity or
seen this Galilean getting above his proper
station in life. Where would I see myself if
I had been one of those faced with a decision?
• Does this reading suggest that I think
again about what we will be judged by?