We are invited to pray to the God of peace with the joy that comes through our being reconciled with God through Jesus Christ. We pray with a new notion of a God of peace Whose constant labor is for our ongoing creation resulting in peaceful union.
We are bidden also to pray with our eagerness to celebrate the realities of Easter. There is the old Latin phrase, “Hasten, slowly.” We can pray with patience and to linger with these days of waking up to who God says we are in our Baptisms.
We may reflect as well on our need for a Savior, a Jesus to free us. We can pray as well for a deeper sense of the areas of our lives which are not quite living yet.REFLECTION
Last Christmas we celebrated that The Word of God was taking flesh in the body of a simple, very human Nazareth girl. The Holy Infinite was come to begin the construction of the world as God’s Kingdom.
This great Christian theme embraces all three readings of today’s liturgy. The Second Reading from Ephesians, which needs no commentary or reflection by me, must be read slowly in our gatherings. It is loaded with basic theologically important, yet simple statements. It will be easy to miss after listening to the drama of the First Reading. If it is read unslowly at your parish, stand up and say, “What was that?”
The books of The Chronicles relate the many risings and fallings of the nation Israel and of their kings and their enemies. This national history ends with a briefer history from which chapter we read for this liturgy. It does have quite a happy and blessed ending which is highlighted by an outsider’s coming inside to free them, but even more, begins for them their contact with their religious past.
Jeremiah and other prophets had come as messengers to recall Israel to its dignity, but as we hear in this section of the last chapter from the Book of Second Chronicles, these messengers were mocked, scorned and rebuked. The religious leaders and the people rebelled and polluted the very holy Temple. For this hardness of heart, they are invaded and brought into captivity. This is the result of sin, but God uses this for a greater revelation of just Who God is and how God wants to be known. Captivity, distance from homeland, darkness of spirit, all become the setting for more history. Cyrus, a powerful Persian king invades Babylon and not only, now listen to this, not only frees this foreign nation Israel, but trumps that by saying, that the God Who gave him all this power has also charged him with building God a new home in Jerusalem. The former temple was destroyed during a previous invasion. Ah, but there is more!
“Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him.” Amazing! The victor knows from Whom his power comes and sets the captives free and sends them on their way and to a new temple he will build. Now the Second Reading will be more clear and lead to a fuller understanding of the Gospel.
Jesus continues His little talk with Nicodemus who has come, during the dark of night, to hear from Jesus about eternal life and even more, just about Jesus. He gives Nicodemus quite a lengthy earful in today’s Gospel reading.
He first asks His listener to recall how Moses, the great Jewish leader saved his people by raising the image of a serpent and all who looked upon it were healed. Using this historical reference, Jesus indicates that He, too, will be lifted up, (on the cross) to heal all those who look upon Him with the eyes of faith. This seeing/believing in Him Who has been sent, will lead to eternal life. God has sent the Son for the very purpose of building a “home” wherein God will be with them; recall the last verse of our First Reading. Jesus has come to be the New Temple and remain with us.
A strong theme of John’s Gospel is that of Jesus’ being the “light”. Bad things happen in this Gospel at night or in the “darkness”. Remember, Nicodemus has come to visit with Jesus by night. John uses this symbol to present Jesus as the One Who has come into the darkness of the world to illumine to the world how beloved are all. There are those who choose darkness and so remain unaware of their being so loved. These choose the works appropriate to darkness. The real evil is that those who choose darkness choose the evil of not knowing, accepting, and living their truth as loved and saved in Christ.
The result of this Gospel is that those who know who they are in the light of Christ will more clearly desire their identities to be shown in the works of “light” which they live. The converse is true as well. If we do not know, or refuse to accept who we are, then that personal darkness will play hide and seek with their lives. They will seek hiding and secretly hope their selfishness never is exposed.
I embarrassingly remember the seven-year-old lad who snatched an orange at his local grocery store, put it in his left hand, tucked it behind his back and walked slinkingly toward the in-door. It is very difficult to open the in-door with one hand occupied in the deed of darkness.
The owner came and asked kindly why I wasn’t going out the out-door, which he knew would involve going through the check-out line. He knew what I was trying to do and he told me it was easier to open with two hands. I told him I would go out through the other door and so, slinkingly, I walked back past the oranges and slyly deposited the fatal fruit back in its box. Obviously I assumed the owner didn’t see me do that.
I, lightened of the orange and lightened of spirit, walked out into the light of Vilet Street, a little wiser for having dabbled in darkness. Would that I had learned that lesson once and for all time.
It is a gracious comfort to know, that like Nicodemus, we can come to Jesus out of our darkness, and because He is the Light of Love, we can look upon Him lifted up on the cross and walk out of the darkness into the light of our Vilet Streets.
Recently, our little house here in north Omaha was invaded by mice! Yup, when we took the container of dog food up from the basement, the mice, who had been cheating the dog a little bit, bravely followed the nourishing bag. We know that mice must have been along with Noah and have followed the scriptural mandate to multiply. We have taken steps for their learning division and subtraction. We are winning.
Our Lent reflection sponsored by the mice is that getting to the roots, the source, the nourishing bag, down deep in our personal basements will eventually result in getting rid of our personal spiritual mice which do cause us ultimate discomfort and messes all around. The prophets like Jeremiah and Jesus Himself are not setting traps in our readings today, but are offering freedom from the darknesses of our basements.
“Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” John 3, 21
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