Fourth Sunday in Lent (11 March)

John 3:14-21 Psalm 136/137(1-6) Ephesians 2:4-10

The Gospel of the fourth Sunday of Lent is from that of John. At the beginning of chapter 3 we have Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, who acknowledges his belief that Jesus must be from God, because of the miraculous signs performed by him. In this Sunday’s passage, Jesus continues on into a teaching which relates to us that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world:
“For John the incarnate Word is himself the place and the visible manifestation of the divine presence and its glory.”[1]

God’s love for us is echoed in the passage of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, instructing the community that the sort of behaviour that is worthy of our call as Christians, is that which makes for peace and harmony in the community.[2] And again the psalm promotes the
compassion of God to the people as it reads,
“If I forget you Jerusalem
let my right hand wither.”

So I ask myself what would Jesus say when a child tells you she now knows why she cannot make communion because her parents’ experience from ‘the Church’ is of being condemned because of the type of family unit she lives in. And when a friend who grieves over the fact that she was told by a clergyman to get out of the Church because of her sexual orientation: ‘I love my faith but the Church has put me out,’ she cries. And on hearing of another couple commenting to a good pastor after their sexual orientation was described by the Church’s teaching as a disorder: ‘You see, Father, the Church doesn’t need us – but we need the Church.’

In front of me, all I see is a child, a friend upset, and a couple whose gifts the Church needs, and the sin of clericalism that closes its doors on such as these.
“O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not.” (psalm 136/137).

These have been my true experiences this week where the visible manifestation of God’s love for each has been thin in the institutional Church. My hope is to hold onto a message of John from this week’s passage, so as to bear witness to the true character of Jesus which Nicodemus could see by what Jesus was doing, in showing compassion for others and in speaking of the love of God which unites and reaches out.

“Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

As a member of the Church, may I be with those good pastors who love and do not condemn.

Sr Edel Murphy OP

(1)Gerard Vann, The Eagle’s Word, p.15 , Collins St James’s Place, London, 1961
(2) Lionel Swain, Ephesians, p.84, Veritas Publications, Dublin, 1980

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