Homily March 15, 2015 4th Sunday of Lent
As we continue towards easter, our readings again look at the harder and darker times in Jewish history and of Jesus being a light, being lifted up both on a cross at a very dark moment and ultimately his resurrection. First we see Israel’s punishment for falling into darkness and evil by ignoring God’s word and prophets. They are dragged off to Babylon. Their time there was even longer than before their return from Egypt and their forty years in the desert. This time it was seventy years, a length of time that very few would survive to return home. But while God turned and allowed the Babylonians to prevail, it was the Israelites who had turned away and took a different course than what the law and prophets asked.
In John today we see one of the themes is Jesus as light of the world. We see Nicodemus come to Jesus in the darkness of the night. It is interesting because Nicodemus became a believer but for a long time a secret fearful believer, hiding his faith from the Jews. Yet his secret wasn’t evil but simply embarrassing to him or to his professional life. Even today, I think many of us are motivated by what others think and do and are fearful like Nicodemus to shine the light on their actions and plans. If you consider it, such considerations make it easy for all kind of behind the scenes activities and sometimes bad and evil things come into our lives and society. It seem to be almost inherent in our nature that we are afraid of what others might see and find out, yet we pursue what we want in the dark or under the radar where people can’t see and judge. Look at the difficulties of the so-called sunshine laws today. Certainly privacy is an issue, but when does our privacy impugn another person? Christ is the light and in him there should be no fear, no gossip, no retribution for faithful actions and beliefs. When we retreat into darkness, what do we fear? Jesus came to dispel that fear with the light of his word, and by being lifted up, dying that all might live rising and once again lifted up for all. He was born and grew up and lived among us. He felt all the passions and joys of life as well as anxieties and suffering and death. What could have been worse than the darkness of that night in Gethsemane, knowing and facing what was the inevitable end of his life? Yet through it all, he remained faithful, a light, a way for others to see and follow. His strength and death even brought Nicodemus to the fore to claim his body for burial. Such a light dispelling the darkness around us, confounds and challenges those around us, often in a positive way, other times making them strike out in ways we do not fathom or understand. Yet with Jesus our light, our love, our faith, we should always be ready to reach out and embrace even those who wish us evil things. This is how we become a people of light, of love, shining Christ’s love in every corner of humanity. In Jesus time, the day was the time for work, the time of light and seeing clearly. The night was dark and a time to refresh and stay still. What was out and beyond the home was unknown and questionable and not seeable. Remember we only have two centuries or so that we have electricity to somewhat dispel the darkness. What we can’t forget is that the darkness of evil is still around and Jesus is the light that dispels that darkness. As a people of light we should always try to stay in the light.