God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
Rejoice in the middle of Lent
This Sunday is traditionally called “Laetare” Sunday for the first words of the opening of the Eucharistic Liturgy: “Laetare, Jerusalem,” – “Rejoice, O Jerusalem.” We rejoice on this day that is half way between remembering our death on Ash Wednesday and our life through Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
“We rejoice knowing in faith that our brother Jesus lived, died, and still lives among us,” says Maryknoll Father Jack Sullivan, a longtime missioner in Hong Kong. “Despite our infidelities, Jesus continues to send us messages, warnings, and hope, calling us to love Jerusalem, the City of God, which is our whole earth itself, with all its people and creatures, even when we understand so little, fall short repeatedly, and suffer without cause.”
Today’s Gospel reading tells about Nicodemus, a Pharisee who seems to want to follow Jesus. One night, he approaches Jesus to acknowledge Him as someone who has come from God but, in the dialogue that follows, Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus at every point.
It doesn’t matter, though, because John’s gospel includes a theological reflection on Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, including an observation about human sinfulness. Jesus is the light that has come into the world, but people prefer the darkness. Jesus has come into the world to reveal and die for our sins so that they may be forgiven. This is the Good News; it is our reason for rejoicing during the season of Lent and throughout our lives.
In Dr. Martin Luther King's six principles of nonviolence, the fourth principle is: Nonviolence holds that suffering, like Christ dying on the cross, can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
“This doesn’t mean that suffering itself is good,” wrote Mika Edmonston in The Power of Unearned Suffering: The Roots and Implications of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Theodicy. “But in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ, believers have held that God’s omnipresent goodness will have the final say over every form of suffering, no matter how severe.” … “For King, the cross of Christ represented the definitive proof of God’s purpose to bring redemptive good out of suffering, and the guiding example of how to actively engage suffering toward a redemptive goal.”
James Cone, in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, offers the lynching tree as a viable symbol for reflection on the cross of Christ. According to Cone, understandings of the cross and lynching tree can explain how events of trauma and injustice can still inspire hope for the African American community and all marginalized communities.
Question for Reflection
Where do you see the redeeming power of suffering in your life?
May you be blessed in the holy names of those who carry our pain up the mountain of transfiguration.
May you know tender shelter and healing blessing when you are called to stand in the place of pain.
May the places of darkness within you be surprised by light.
May you be granted the wisdom to avoid false resistance and when suffering knocks on the door of your life, may you be able to glimpse its hidden gift.
May you be able to see the fruits of suffering.
May memory bless and shelter you with the hard-earned light of past turmoil, may this give you confidence and trust.
May a window of light always surprise you.
May the grace of transfiguration heal your wounds.
May you know that even though the storm might rage, not a hair on your head will be harmed.
–“For Suffering” by John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us.
Ask your family and friends what breaks their peace and what brings them peace. Think of a way you can make a difference for them.
Endorse the Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence, the final statement of the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome in 2016 http://bit.ly/NVJustPeace2016
Follow the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nonviolencejustpeace/
A Maryknoll Missioner says...
“A group of Catholics from California were accompanying Bishop Macram Max Gassis of the Sudanese Catholic Church on a pastoral visit to a village in the Nuba Mountain area of the Sudan when it came under attack. Luckily, the bombs fell outside the village and no one was killed. Later, the stunned Californians asked the bishop about the violence.
“For years the Church in the Sudan has been a receiving church, Bishop Gassis explained. Missionaries brought the Good News and outside assistance is still needed to survive. But the Church in the Sudan is also a donor church, the bishop said.
“Through war, drought, and persecution this church has experienced suffering like that which the Son of God endured, suffering that is redemptive. Even though Christians in the U.S. had never met Christians in the Sudan, the bishop said, the Sudanese, through their redemptive suffering, have an impact on them. ‘This is what we, the Sudanese, give to the Church. It is our hidden gift,’ he said.
“Several years later, Bishop Gassis came to visit a parish near my home in Minnesota to thank the people there for their support. After Mass I was surprised when few people stopped to say hello to him. Prophets are without honor everywhere, I mused. But then a teacher approached the bishop and told him that since his visit last year, her second graders had been transformed. ‘They say meeting you was as close as they would get to meeting Jesus.’ So the children recognized a prophet among them.”
–FATHER DAVID SCHWINGHAMER, MM
Pictured: Bishop Macram Max Gassis in Nuba Mountains.