I once used John 3: 16-17 as a computer password. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” and “God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved”. Do any other verses express more exquisitely, more powerfully God’s desire to forgive; God’s desire to save? It was an easy reference/ password to remember.
Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus appears to be a disciple “only by half”, as Gregory Nazianzen puts it. His was only a “partial” faith. Nicodemus doesn’t reject Jesus as many of the other leaders. However, he cannot go beyond the limits of his experience; beyond what he can control; beyond what he is comfortable with.
What about our own faith? Have we settled on a comfortable plateau? Do we long for a growth in faith? Are we men and women who prefer darkness to light? No! But are we open to the Spirit from above; ever seeking truth; letting the gift of baptism mature; excited about getting to know a God never outdone in love, generosity and mercy?
Nicodemus’ faith developed. When the chief Priests and Pharisees denounced Jesus, Nicodemus courageously pointed out that the law did not judge a person without giving him a hearing. After Jesus’ death he helped Joseph of Arimethea at some personal risk to bury the body. Not a vibrant faith! But is our faith developing likewise? What could we do deepen our faith?
“We are God’s work of art …” A beautiful phrase! All cultures rightly appreciate art. Human beings are sculptured by God’s love; fashioned by a creativity that captures something of the divine in the human.
This is to go beyond anything Nicodemus understood. It opens for us the possibility that Christ’s life might dwell in us and we in Christ. There can only be one response to God’s mighty works within us – gratitude. A true sense of gratitude to God for all God’s gifts cannot but increase our faith.
Ian Tomlinson SJ