A Nighttime Conversation

Mar 7, 2018

Gospel Reflection, 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B
2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2: 4-10; John 3: 14-21

 A Nighttime Conversation

Many conversations can be carried on better at night when it is quiet.  Then we can sometimes manage to put into words things that are really important and essential and go more deeply into things.  Nicodemus, a member of the council, comes to Jesus with this sort of conversation one night. 

In the first part of the conversation, before this passage, Jesus makes it quite clear that in order to attain life’s goal, to enter the kingdom of heaven, we have to be born anew “from above”.  Nicodemus does not understand this.  An adult cannot become a baby once more and still less an embryo.  It is a matter of being born again – not so as to live for as long as possible on this earth, but so as to have the kind of life that no death can destroy. 

This is where today’s gospel begins.  It is the second part of the conversation.  How can we get out of the rut of our old lives and find new life, eternal life?  Jesus expresses it with an image from the Bible.  Once, during their forty years of wandering through the wilderness, the Jews had been quite rebellious against God.  They were attacked by a plague of poisonous serpents.  Many of the Jews died.  Moses made a metal serpent and set it up on high.  Anyone who looked up at it was healed.  That is how we ought to act, Jesus advises Nicodemus.  Once he is hanging on the Cross on high, then we ought to look up to him, and looking at him will make us whole again and give us new life.

I recall a cross in a field at Pacem in Terris Retreat Center in Isanti, MN that I would often walk to when I was there.  It definitely set the tone for my walk knowing that Jesus understands all of my difficulties.  How often when we have looked upon the Cross has peace stolen into our restless hearts, consolation into our despair, remorse, and readiness to stand up again, the desire to begin again, and to carry on!

In this nighttime conversation we also discover why it is that it helps so much to look up to the One who is crucified.  In one of the loveliest sayings that Jesus ever uttered, he says that God so loved the world that he will do anything for it; he even gives up for us what is most precious to him, his Son.  It becomes clear that God wants, not to judge people, but to save them.  Let us pray that we and our neighbors will know this love so as to not fall victim to the darkness when everything is obscure and difficult.  Jesus tells his nighttime visitor, “Believe in this love!  It is stronger than anything else, even death!”  Let us then make time during Lent and otherwise to have just this kind of “Nicodemus hour” in the silence of the night.  God bless you all!


Father Tony