4th Sunday B Lent – Fully Alive
This Gospel is a brief extract from Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus about ‘eternal life’. Nicodemus isn’t mentioned in the piece, but to get the impact the entire conversation between himself and Jesus should be read – John 3, 1-21. Nicodemus, a leading Jew, sneaked out at night so as not to be seen meeting Jesus. He was wondering what difference would knowing Jesus make to the life he already lived as a pious Jew. Matthew has a story in his Gospel of a rich and very religious young man who came to Jesus looking for ‘eternal life’ but couldn’t cross the Rubicon and follow him – Matt 19, 16-22. What does ‘eternal life’ add to our everyday lives? What does it mean on a daily basis to be ‘saved’?
I have met many Catholics who live decent secular lives and who show little interest in getting to know Jesus Christ or coming to a deeper understanding of their faith. I remember listening patiently to a young man telling me many years ago how to improve things at the parish. ‘But,’ I interrupted, ‘I’ve been here for the past four years and have never seen you once at Sunday Mass or at any parish event in all that time.’ ‘So what?’ he said. ‘I’m a Catholic, I went to Catholic school and I used to be an altar boy; I know the Catholic religion.’ The incident reminded me of a telling line that’s often attributed to the Danish writer, Soren Kierkegaard: ‘It is much easier to become a Christian when you aren’t one than to become one when you assume you already are.’
Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being ‘born from above,’ having ‘eternal life’, being ‘saved,’ ‘believing in God’s only Son’…. These are terms that refer to a mature and evolved level of faith, a faith that is personalised and intuits that Christ is risen and alive in one’s life. To have ‘eternal life’ refers to a dimension of life here and now (and not just hereafter) that makes all the difference to how I see everything and how I relate to people and to the world around me. What is real in life stands out more clearly and compellingly when God’s only Son is someone I have encountered in a human and personal way. When that happens to someone they can resonate with the joy of the two who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus: ‘Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened the Scriptures to us’ – Luke 24, 32.
‘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’, said Jesus to Nicodemus – John 3, 14. ‘Look at the cross,’ said Mother Teresa, ‘and believe much more in his love than in your own weakness.’ She who looked at the cross saw the face of Jesus in every human being: ‘This is hungry Jesus, I must feed him; this is lonely Jesus, I must support him; this is leprous Jesus, I must wash his sores….’ (1). ‘Being disciples means being called to see others from the perspective of an eternal and unflinching, unalterable love’, wrote Rowan Williams (2). To follow Jesus means ‘being with people whose company Jesus sought: the excluded, the disreputable, the poor, the wretched, the insane and diseased’ (3). It is to ‘cross the bar’ and leave the safety of the harbour behind for the depths of the outer ocean, convinced that reality and ‘life to the full’ lies in that direction – John 10, 10.
Fr. QQ – 3/10/2021
1 – Malcolm Muggeridge, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD, 159
2 – BEING DISCIPLES, 73
3 – BEING DISCIPLES, 11