Our Lenten journey of growing closer to God brings us to the 4th Sunday of Lent. And for our Lenten path God has provided bright and beautiful light from His Word. It is in His light we see the story of a soul and we see lessons for the story our soul can experience.
Our first reading sets the scene of the people of Israel over the ages. A people of faith and a people who also, sadly, fell away from their faith when they did not allow the graces of God to grow and change, convert, their lives. These are the people, much loved by God, to whom Jesus came and proclaimed His Kingdom. They are the same beloved souls to which the Psalm testifies that they mourned for their spiritual home in their exile because of sin.
The epistle for today moves the scene of our story to see a people being redeemed by God and growing in His graces learning the call of God to reign with Him, to know and experience that our souls “…are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in them.”
The scene is now set for us to now meet the two main individuals of our Gospel for this day: Jesus and a man name Nicodemus. To better appreciate and learn from this encounter between a human soul and God Let us better acquaint ourselves with this Nicodemus.
Nicodemus is a man whose story is only shared in the Gospel of John. The fact that he is not mentioned in the three synoptic Gospels is not that he was unknown to Matthew, Mark or Luke. It is very possible that this silence, from these much earlier Gospel writers, may have been in recognition of his faith and the perils of faith in the Jewish world at that time. John’s gospel, written decades latter may have been able to share these insights into Nicodemus as he may have gone on to his eternal reward. The Gospel does show Nicodemus was a man of significant stature among the Hebrew people of Jesus’s time. He was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin and a man well taught in the laws and courts of his day, reminding the enemies of Christ that anyone accused is entitled to be heard and fairly tried, (John 7) Nicodemus was also a man of wealth. As seen when Joseph of Arimathea sought to bury the Body of Jesus in his tomb it was Nicodemus who brought 100 Roman pounds of herbs and spices for His burial, an amount as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, fit for a royal burial. (John 19). But it is in the Gospel for today we learn the most about the story of Nicodemus. Although well educated, socially, very successful and wealthy he hungered for more.
It was to Jesus he came, secretly, in the dark of night to LISTEN, TO BE BORN AGAIN, CONVERTED and grow on to SERVE God. Nicodemus comes to with Jesus, humble, courageous in his questions, thirsting to hear the Truth of God. And, Nicodemus LISTENED. As he listened his faith grew and he was converted. But Nicodemus had only begun his faith journey with God. Allowing God to conquer his fears of his peers he would find those fears converted to courage in facing those who sought condemn Jesus. And it was God’s grace that would bring this powerful man to serve His Savior in love and faith as he brought the herbs and spices for His burial.
Nicodemus, the story of a soul encountering God, repeatedly. And allowing God to change, convert him from a fearful servant of sin to a humble servant courageous in the love of God.
And so God sent His Son for each of us, to meet, to truly listen to, with hearts hungering for His Truth and celebrate the faith journey of ongoing conversion. An for each of us to learn, as St. Paul reminded us earlier: we “…are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in them.”
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