Pattern: Every Sunday morning in Lent you will receive, as you are receiving here, a Meditation to activate your prayerful interest in the Gospel text chosen in the Catholic Lectionary. What is offered you each Sunday follows the pattern that you see below: Text, Points, Quotation, and Habit to Practice. A “point” for Prayer is a “location” in the biblical text to perceive more attentively, or a single thought to consider arising from that text. A “point” is meant to slow you down, to pique your interest in an effort of attention to the scripture which the Spirit desires for you to be “living and effective.”
Text: John 3:16-21
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 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 Son of God. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.o 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. 
First Point – In the summer of 1981, a close friend of mine, a fellow Jesuit, was ordained a Priest. And as was the custom at that time, each Jesuit about to be ordained produced a “face card” (a professional photograph of himself in priestly attire) on the back of which would be written his full name, the date of his Ordination (in this case, Saturday, 13 June 1981) and the location of his Ordination. But also a Jesuit might, as Lance did, include a quotation, whose meaning seemed to him expressive of his hope. If I have recalled it accurately (after what is now 13,416 days ago) his quote was the first line of a poem written by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963):
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
That line has haunted me ever since, working somewhere in the deep places within, awakening me towards an understanding not yet achieved. That poetic line is not a riddle that I endeavor to solve; rather it is a koan meant to defeat normal insight – “designed to shock the mind beyond mere thinking.” Let us consider the possibility that Jesus Himself was a koan given that good but worried man, Nicodemus, who came to talk to Jesus in the night, and about whom the poet Henry Vaughn says so beautifully –
Most blest believer he! [i.e., Nicodemus]
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see,
When Thou didst rise!
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun!
Second Point – We know that John’s use of “light … dark” in his Gospel refers to ideas theologically significant – of ancient Forces and Powers. This dyad expresses symbolically the fact of a cosmos locked in battle, and of human hearts not pure. Jeremiah remarks:
9 More tortuous than anything is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it? 
Yet sometimes it is useful to let “light” and “dark” be what first they are and mean, letting “light” refer to the daytime and letting “dark” refer to the nighttime. After all, the daytime and the nighttime, both, were created by God, established by God to be a permanent pattern of life on Earth – the central work of the Fourth Day.
And so it happened: 16 God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night, and the stars.h 17 God set them in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. 19 Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.
Notice that God made two great lights, and by that caused what we know as “daytime” and “nighttime.” Both are given to human beings as a locus of meaning. Consequently, we should be careful not to let John’s symbolizing of “light … dark” as morally-tinged Powers cause us to conclude to the moral darkness of Nicodemus (because he came “at night”). We could overlook the obvious fact that God Himself made the nighttime to be a time of Blessing – “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.” (Psalm 19:2). For example, we, and Nicodemus, can behold the fuller divine gift of Creation only at night, as we stand under a sky filled with stars and galaxies and planets in motion, and the Moon affixed there, riding high, receiving on its surface the reflected light of a hidden Sun?
We are unable to see, except at nighttime, something as vast and majestic as this Carina Nebula (below) – because it is not seeable during the daytime!
We remark to ourselves, and with truth, how we forget the fuller grace of God during the daytime. The light blinds us to it. Perhaps Nicodemus, coming at nighttime, was onto something. “In a dark time … the eye begins to see.” And he came to the Light, through the darkness, with hope.
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Third Point – The scholar Thomas L. Brodie noticed that the “coming towards” of Nicodemus – “this man came to him at night” (John 3:2) – is just the first of four comings in a row in John 3 and 4. This fourfold generosity of human responses to God’s coming is made possible because of the coming first of the Son of God towards us – “He came to what was his own” (John 1:11), and “the one who comes from heaven” (John 3:31). The significance of this “coming” points to a miracle having already been accomplished in the world. And it is this: suddenly humans are not hiding from the coming of God. Instead we see them coming towards Him. Consider the “hiding” of Adam and Eve in the Garden, Genesis 3:8-9 –
8 When they heard the sound of the Lord God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day,* the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.d 9 The Lord God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”
Nicodemus comes towards, he does not hide from, the Lord who comes. He stands, then, as a sort of first-fruits of the healing of that ancient propensity born in a broken Paradise, a Sign (given and effective) marking the beginning of the Healing of Hiding that had been from long ago our response to the coming of God – “I was afraid … so I hid”:
19 *And this is the verdict,n that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.o 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.p 
A GREAT NEED
We are all holding hands
Not loving is a letting go.
The terrain around here
Habit to practice during the Fourth Week of Lent:
Look for a way this week to engage someone in a conversation beyond the level of depth you typically practice. See if you can, as Jesus Himself does with Nicodemus so skillfully (using irony, and the playfulness of double-meanings), draw someone out. Create the conversational context that makes it possible for him or her to share with you a truth he or she does not typically expect someone to invite. And using Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus as your model, see if you are able to reply something of central meaning to you … as Jesus did when He shared, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son….” The depth you invite out into the open is then met by a depth that you yourself give back. The habit of this Fourth Week of Lent is to do with a practice of conversation of this type … with at least one person of your choosing.
 “A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the people of God. Lectionaries were known and used in the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the church’s year. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and festival has continued through the history of the Christian Church.”
 Hebrews 4:12 – “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (NABRE)
o Jb 24:13–17.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 3:16–21.
 In the Catholic Church we use the verb “to ordain” in relation to the conferring of the Sacrament of Holy Orders on a man prepared and chosen for this Office in the Church. ORDINATION: “The rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders by which the bishop, through the imposition of hands and the prayer of consecration, confers the order of bishop, priest, or deacon to exercise a sacred power which comes from Christ on behalf of the Church (1538).” Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 890.
 See the powerful poem complete at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43347/in-a-dark-time. In that third line notice the reference to the opening lines of Dante’s Inferno (the first of the three books of his extraordinary Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso): “Midway in the journey of our life / I came to myself in a dark wood, / for the straight way was lost.” (From the Princeton translation.)
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “riddle” – “A question or statement intentionally phrased to require ingenuity in ascertaining its answer or meaning, frequently used as a game or pastime; an enigma; a conundrum.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “koan” – Zen Buddhism. “A paradox put to a student to stimulate his or her mind.”
 The full quote is from Time magazine (4 February, 66/2) and recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary, is: “A less physical shock technique is the koan, a problem designed to shock the mind beyond mere thinking.”
 Henry Vaughn, “The Night” (a contemplation of John 3:2).
 Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible at “Dualism” notes (in part) – “In ancient Zoroastrian religion, the two opposing gods of good and evil comprise cosmic reality, with the good god ultimately gaining control of the world in the future age. By contrast, ancient Israelite religion was monotheistic; Yahweh held control over good and evil. However, in postexilic Judaism (cf. 1QM) and in subsequent Christianity (Gal. 1:4; Rom. 8:18–25; Phil. 3:20–21; Revelation), apocalyptic thought arose resembling the Zoroastrian cosmic dualism insofar as the good (God) triumphs over the present evil age (under the control of Satan and demons). Unlike Zoroastrianism’s cosmic dualism with moral implications, the ethical dualism in the Bible is more pragmatic since one chooses to do good or evil. In particular, Jesus’ teachings affirm that persons determine their moral identity as people in God’s approaching kingdom or as people in opposition to that kingdom.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “dyad” – “The number two; a group of two; a couple.”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Je 17:9.
h Dt 4:19; Ps 136:7–9; Wis 13:2–4; Jer 31:35.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ge 1:15–19.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “locus” – “The place in which something is situated or occurs.”
 An image made by the Hubble Space Telescope of the Carina Nebula.
 A famous line from Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), a Czech playwright, poet, and political dissident. See his Obituary in the New York Times on 18 December 2011 – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/world/europe/vaclav-havel-dissident-playwright-who-led-czechoslovakia-dead-at-75.html.
 Thomas L. Brodie, The Gospel according to John: a Literary and Theological Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), and see in particular at page 191. This remains one of my favorite Commentaries on John’s Gospel.
 The four in a row that “come” towards Jesus are (1) Nicodemus, (2) “an people came to be baptized” (3:23), (3) the Samaritan woman, and (4) “the royal official” at Cana (4:46ff).
* The breezy time of the day: lit., “the wind of the day.” Probably shortly before sunset.
d Jer 23:24.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ge 3:8–10.
* Judgment is not only future but is partially realized here and now.
n 1:5, 9–11; 8:12; 9:5.
o Jb 24:13–17.
p Gn 47:29 LXX; Jos 2:14 LXX; 2 Sm 2:6 LXX; 15:20 LXX; Tb 4:6 LXX; 13:6; Is 26:10 LXX; Mt 5:14–16.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 3:19–21.
 The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. Hafiz, c. 1320 to 1389, a mystic, Sufi poet from Persia. “A Great Need”, page 165.
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