4th Sunday of Lent
14th March 2021
Year B – Psalter week 4
God sent his Son so that through him the world might be saved
The following verses in the Gospel of John are often quoted: “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” At the heart of the gospel message is this love of God offered to us, a free gift, and God’s desire not to condemn us, but to save us, to the point of giving his only Son.
What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus? The Gospel of John is the most theologically developed of the gospels, and words such as “believe” have a deep meaning. We know that it does not simply mean to believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, because even the evil spirits know that, and they have rejected God’s kingdom definitively. For John the Evangelist, neither does belief mean only agreeing with various teachings “about” Jesus, a kind of “belief of the head,” as it were, where we only use our intellect. That is not to say, however, that our intellectual assent and understanding of the content of our faith is not important, which is why, for example, we recite the Creed at every Sunday Mass. So it is important to know “what” we believe about Jesus. In John’s gospel, however, belief goes still further. It is also a “belief of the heart”. It is not only a “knowing about Jesus”, but also a “knowing Jesus”. It involves an encounter with him, and a coming to know him personally. Further, it means an entrusting of one’s life to him, of being a true disciple who listens to his teaching, and puts that teaching into practice by loving God and neighbour with all of one’s being.
Less frequently quoted are the verses that follow: “No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son. On these grounds is sentenced pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.” The implication here, is that people actually judge themselves by their reaction to Jesus.
I would like to conclude by quoting the commentary in Universalis on today’s gospel, which I found particularly insightful: “After Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus comes this reflection on his visit. Is it Jesus’ reflection or the evangelist’s? The text does not make it clear. Throughout the gospel of John people are coming to Jesus and judging themselves by their reactions to Jesus. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son. In his turn the Son does not judge, but we judge ourselves by our reaction to him. So at the wedding at Cana the disciples believe in him and see his glory. In the Temple the Jews refuse belief and are condemned. Then comes Nicodemus in secret and in fear. He is sitting on the fence, afraid of the Pharisees, but by the time of the burial he has decided for Jesus. After Nicodemus comes the Samaritan woman, cheeky and unbelieving at first, but won over by Jesus’ playful persistence. And so on: the Jews on one side, the man healed at the Pool of Bethzatha on the other; the Jews on one side, the man blind from birth on the other. The decision is ours too: when confronted by Jesus do we come to the light that our deeds may be known, or do we shun the light?”
 Universalis, Readings at Mass on Sunday 14th March, 2021 (see: www.universalis.com).
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
God’s wrath and mercy are revealed in the exile and release of his people
O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!
You have been saved through grace
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son: everyone who believes in him has eternal life.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!