The readings from Acts and John 3:16 are all about our discipleship. The four walls of a prison and the threat of death could not contain the Apostles and their zeal for preaching the Good News. The Johannine Community is reminded that God so loved the world. God’s love for the world is so much more than a sign at a football game. God’s love for the world is transformative—it transforms us.
We must answer the altar call of divine Love. We can only become what we already are by responding to the loving call of God. But, unlike many fundamentalists, our response does not end with accepting the altar call. The Johannine Community is reminded that it must believe the Good News and then act accordingly.
Our salvation goes beyond proclaiming that “I am saved.” The Nicodemus story reminded the community and us that there can be no closest disciples. Disciples must live in the Light and bring the Light to bear on the evil that co-exist as with Light in the world:
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
We have come into the Easter light from the darkness of Good Friday. We must prefer things of the light to the evil deeds of darkness. This is our call to bold discipleship as exhibited by the Apostles in Acts.
When we shine the light of Gospel truth on the world around us, what do we see? We see paradox—good and evil co-exist. However, we know that Light has overcome the darkness. In the end, the Gospel shall overcome.
In our troubling times fraught with political conflict, it is difficult to find the truth. We also are living in times of intense religious conflict. The American bishops have launched a post card campaign to urge our congressional leaders to work for just immigration reform. In some dioceses, they have had to stop handing out the cards because many were returned with caustic, un-Christian comments about the strangers among us—immigrants. Yet, these same people readily signed post cards opposing abortion. Somehow the whole fabric of life truth has not reached many hearts.
The Knights of Columbus, absent their plumed hats, capes and medieval swords, stand outside the church “selling” their Tootsie Rolls to support handicapped children. The same Knights of Columbus gave over a million dollars to the California campaign to oppose rights for gays and lesbians. The light is not shining in the darkness.
The people who wrote the caustic comments about immigrants have just received the Eucharist. Yet, their actions are light years away from Gospel truth. I might ask what teaching, what evangelization proceeded the launch of the post card campaign for immigration. We all have heard a lot of sermons about the evils of abortion. We probably have heard a few sermons from courageous pastors about the evil of war. We sometimes hear sermons about immigration reform. A good start then from bring the Light to bear on the darkness would be for church leaders to preach the social dimensions of the Gospel—we have to do something because we are loved.
Katie Gander, a member of our Ecumenical Good Friday Walk, related a story about her five-year-old son. He participated in the Good Friday Walk. After he saw the thin, plastic covered mats that serve as “beds” for the homeless at His Place Ministries in Melbourne, he looked at his mom and said, “What do we do about it?” He gets the Gospel. Wow!!!
It is easy to point fingers. Merton cautions us—look to the evil in your own hearts and deal with it first. Where are we refusing to let the Light shine? What is the beam in our eye?
Like the members of the Johannine Community we are called to be Light to the world. The responsorial verse is, “God hears the cry of the poor.” Living in the Light means alleviating human misery, caring for others, loving others, and forgiving others. We cannot hide our Light under a basket as did the believers in the Qumran Community. Jesus is the Light of the World because he grew in union with Abba-God by responding to the human needs around him. He brought Light to an oppressed people. Jesus heard the cry of the poor every day of his ministry. He brought light to hungry tenant framers and those dispossessed of their farm plots. He fed the crowds who followed him. We are called to do no less than Jesus did.