Saturday, March 12, 2016

First Hear Him

Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: “Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.”  Jeremiah 11:19

Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”  John 7:50-52

Father, help us to put away our selfish pursuits and be the change that we seek in the world around us.  Jesus, only you can make us see clearly in the dim light of this world until we can see you in your perfection.  Holy Spirit, send forth the gifts of wisdom so we know what is right and good and true.  Amen.

Nicodemus was likely a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews.  We first encountered him under cover of darkness and in privacy.  He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)

There was a mustard seed of faith in Nicodemus.  He acknowledges that God must be with him in order to accomplish these signs.  While the encounter resonates, Jesus hardly gives Nicodemus a straight answer.  Whatever private emotions drew Nicodemus to Jesus at night now begins to see the light of day as Nicodemus emerges as a defender of Jesus.  While not ready to let Jesus off the hook for his behavior, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus deserves his proverbial day in court.  The irony here is that Nicodemus has already first heard him and found out what he was doing.  But, he is trying to bring more people into that direct encounter with Christ.

Nicodemus wants people to hear Jesus.  No matter what he does, there will be elements of Jesus’ ministry and works that no one will grasp.  “What I am doing, you do not understand now.” (John 13:7).  The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light.  However, Nicodemus emerges into the light.  We will encounter Nicodemus one more time after the Apostles scatter and go into hiding.  Nicodemus will be at the foot of the cross, taking the body of Jesus to a proper burial -- turned fully to the corporal and spiritual works that we mark in this Year of Mercy.

Beginning in December, each month the USCCB will feature Moments of Mercy that offer brief reflections on mercy and concrete suggestions of how we can live out the mercy that God offers us all.  These are perfect for busy days since they help us to slow down for just a few minutes and think about the gifts God has blessed us with and how we can share them.  Here is what they suggest for March:

Though we often think of the Sacrament of Penance as a highly individualized and private sacrament, we must not forget its communal dimensions. In this sacrament, we are not only reconciling ourselves with God but also reconciling ourselves with our community and the Church as a whole. Every time we sin, we distance ourselves from God and neighbor. We may not have sinned against a particular person, but when our relationship with God is broken, our relationships with others suffer since we no longer have God as our guiding light. This sacrament helps us renew our lives to be witnesses of the Good News of Christ and builds us up as members of the Body of Christ.

1. Invite somebody, perhaps someone from a small faith-sharing group at your parish or a friend, to go with you to a reconciliation service at your parish this month before the celebration of Easter.

2. Begin to make amends with someone you are in conflict with. A perfect resolution does not have to occur, but approaching the conflict with an attitude of mercy and compassion will help ease the tension and help you to look on this person with the love of God.

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