Like the slow dawning of the sun, Nicodemus comes to believe gradually
by Sister Laura Zelten
This weekend we return to Daylight Saving Time as we “spring ahead” an hour. In Sunday’s Gospel of John, which focuses on the theme of light, I was drawn to Nicodemus who, over the course of three passages, moves from meeting Jesus in the dark of night to proclaiming boldly in the light of day.
We encounter Nicodemus on Sunday as he comes to Jesus in the dead of night. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, the group of religious leaders who often opposed Jesus’ ministry. As Nicodemus listens to Jesus speak of the light of the kingdom of God Nicodemus begins to understand that Jesus is the One sent by God.
The next time we encounter Nicodemus is in Jerusalem near the time of the Passion. He partially comes into the light by questioning his peers. While Nicodemus doesn't admit he is a believer he does remind the Sanhedrin that Jesus has the right to a trial (John 7:50).
The third time we meet Nicodemus is when he and Joseph of Arimathea go to Pilate to obtain the body of Jesus for a proper burial (John 19:39). This was an amazing demonstration of courage and sacrifice. This time Nicodemus goes without fearing that he will be associated as a believer of Jesus. He has gone from meeting in the dark night to speaking in the light.
- Today, how are we called to stand for truth?
- Where would we place ourselves on the continuum from darkness to light?
- What is one way this week you will be known as a follower of Jesus?
Some interesting tidbits related to this story of Nicodemus and his progressive, en-LIGHT-ening relationship with JESUS:
1) The name Nicodemus is of Greek origin meaning "victory of the people."
2) The 'other' gospel used as a Scrutiny for RCIA candidates this Sunday is John 9:1-41, in which JESUS opens the eyes of a man born blind by rubbing a mixture of earth and JESUS' saliva on the unseeing eyes. Darkness and Light, Blindness and Sight are obvious themes this Sunday, no matter which of these two Lenten gospels is proclaimed.
3) In recent weeks, I have been developing a deeper understanding and appreciation for a most elementary "gift of life" on this planet, the process of photosynthesis. The word, 'photosynthesis,' combines two Greek words to mean, "to put together with the help of light." This incredible 'unseen,' invisible but definitely there transformative power of photosynthesis began its work of producing oxygen in the atmosphere billions of years ago, and this 'hidden' transforming process -- photosynthesis -- continues to supply our world with it here and now, as we breathe in and out, unaware of its life-giving existence.
Without "seeing" it, or knowing about it, we lack awareness. Lacking awareness, we lack wonder, awe, reverence and respect for this most original and natural ongoing conversion process that turns light energy into chemical energy, making life, itself, possible.
To think that there is no life without the process of photosynthesis, which is happening all around us, all the time on this planet, and yet we don't "see" it ...... unless and until someone points this out to us, and takes the time to teach us about this scientific, created wonder, is like an experience of "altered" or "higher" consciousness, I feel.
Because photosynthesis requires and involves both Light and a physical 'body' (plant), it makes me think of the Light of Christ, and how that Light "passes into and through" us, converting and transforming our lives for the greater good and life of others, and for our planet, Earth, itself.
Sr. Laura's reflective questions makes me realize all the more how much "truth" lives in Creation and Nature, itself, and like Our God, forever humble and always Wisdom-filled, rejoices with and within us, when we, too, along with Nicodemus and the man born blind, gain 'new' sight that moves us to a deeper experience of gratitude.
4) Added to this intrigue, is learning that the first person who explored the idea of photosynthesis was an English clergyman and scientist, named Joseph Priestley, who in 1771, made intentional observations using a burning candle, and a sprig of mint. "Priestly," holy work, indeed! And we, a "priestly people" (1Peter 2:9; Rom.12:1), inherit the benefits of the good works of others! "Deo gratias!"