ACTS 4: 23 – 31
In those days: when Peter and John were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ –for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your Holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 2: 1 – 3, 4 – 6, 7 – 9 (R.) 12d
R/. Blessed are all who trust in you, O Lord.
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?
They arise, the kings of the earth;
Princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed.
“Let us burst asunder their fetters.
Let us cast off from us their chains.” R/.
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
The Lord derides and mocks them.
Then he will speak in his anger,
His rage will strike them with terror.
“It is I who have appointed my king
On Sion, my holy mountain.” R/.
I will announce the decree of the Lord:
The Lord said to me, “you are my Son.
It is I who have begotten you this day.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations as your inheritance,
and the ends of the earth as your possession.
With a rod of iron you will rule them;
like a potter’s jar you will shatter them.” R/.
Colossians 3: 1
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
JOHN 3: 1 – 8
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Coming Into the Light
April 17, 2023
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” (John 3:1–2)
Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, is mentioned three times in the Gospel of John. The passage above comes from the first time he’s mentioned. The second time is when he reminds the Sanhedrin that Jesus should be heard by them before they condemn Him, and the third time is when Nicodemus assists with Jesus’ burial after His death. John’s Gospel is very symbolic. He especially uses the images of light and dark. For example, when Judas went out to betray Jesus, John’s Gospel notes that “it was night.” In the passage above, John’s Gospel notes that Nicodemus came to Jesus “at night.”
Saint Augustine, in commenting upon this passage, says that Nicodemus came to Jesus “at night” because Nicodemus was not yet fully born again and, therefore, was not yet living fully in the light of faith. But the fact that Nicodemus does come to Jesus and questions Him at length shows that he had a spark of faith and that he wanted to deepen that faith. He clearly hoped that Jesus was the Messiah and professed that Jesus was “a teacher who has come from God.”
From early times, prior to the formalization of canonization practices, Nicodemus has been given the title of “saint” within the Catholic Church as well as in the Orthodox Church. He is especially venerated because he stood up against the other religious leaders at the time to defend Jesus and show support for Him. This took courage. He was ridiculed and risked being shunned by the others. But Nicodemus knew there was something special about Jesus, and he persevered in following that inspiration.
In many ways, Nicodemus is a great example for us today in our modern world. More and more, in most secular world cultures, being a follower of Jesus is looked down upon. This is especially true if you choose to live your faith openly and believe all that the Gospels teach. Many Christians find that living their faith openly, especially within the workplace, school environments, and other civic circles, is challenging. And like Nicodemus, many find it easier to come to Jesus “at night,” meaning, in a hidden way. And though Nicodemus started this way, he eventually spoke openly in defense of Jesus in the presence of his fellow Pharisees who, according to some traditions, persecuted him and drove him into exile.
Reflect, today, upon Saint Nicodemus. He allowed the spark of faith within him to grow as He listened to Jesus, struggled with the pressure from his peers, but ultimately openly professed his faith in Christ. And though this hurt his worldly position of honor within the Sanhedrin and among the earthly rulers, it earned Nicodemus an eternal honor in Heaven. Reflect upon the courage he must have had to go against the pressure of his peers by allowing the faith he found in Christ to grow and fill his life with the light of Truth. Seek to imitate this good man and allow yourself to be inspired by his courage so that you, too, will receive the same eternal glory he now enjoys in Heaven.
Lord of light and truth, You reveal Yourself to those who come to You with faith. Help me to follow the example of Nicodemus so that all confusion and darkness will be dispelled by the light of Your truth. Give me courage, dear Lord, to follow You and to set my heart on all that You reveal. Jesus, I trust in You.