The Fourth Sunday of Lent [B]
II Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23 + Ephesians 2:4-10 + John 3:14-21
“But whoever lives the truth comes to the light ….”
Saint John the Evangelist lived these words: “whoever lives the truth comes to the light”. He not only wrote them in the third chapter of his Gospel account, from which today’s Gospel Reading comes. His life reflected these words. His life was an icon of these words: “whoever lives the truth comes to the light”.
St. John the Evangelist is called “the Beloved Disciple”. He’s called this because he was the only apostle to stand fast at the foot of the Cross. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus by selling Him for thirty pieces of silver. The other ten apostles turned tail and ran. Peter even lied about knowing Jesus. But St. John the Beloved Disciple stood fast at the foot of the Cross.
While the other apostles saw the Cross as utter darkness, St. John saw the light. John saw the Cross for what it really is. We need to do the same during Lent. We need to see the light that shines from the Cross.
There’s another fact that also distinguishes the Beloved Disciple from the other apostles. He was the only apostle to die of old age. That is to say, St. John was the only saintly apostle not to suffer martyrdom. That’s why, on the feast day of every other saintly apostle, the priest, the tabernacle and the chalice bear red vestments: to reflect the apostles’ blood, which they shed in witness to Jesus. But on December 27th—the feast of St. John—the vestments are white, reflecting the purity of his faith. St. John died an old man, in exile on the island of Patmos in the eastern Mediterranean.
So you might wonder whether these two features of St. John’s life are related. In other words, was it God’s Providence that St. John was the only apostle to live to old age? Was this so that he might have time, first, to pray and reflect on what he saw on Good Friday, and then to write down the truth of what he saw in five books of the New Testament: his account of the Gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation?
All the apostles saw Jesus risen from the dead, but only one apostle saw Jesus sacrifice His Body and Blood on the Cross. Surely St. John’s perspective on Calvary influenced his account of the Gospel. In his five New Testament books, St. John gave witness to the light of Christ: that is, a witness to the power of Jesus’ crucifixion; to the light that shines from the Cross.
One of the unique features of John’s Gospel account is the extent to which he comments on the words and actions of Jesus. These commentaries obviously were the fruit of his years and years of prayer, through to the end of a long life.
Take today’s Gospel Reading as an example. This passage is eight verses long, but only two of them present Jesus speaking. The other three-fourths of the passage are Saint John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, commenting on what it means to follow Jesus. This commentary begins with one of the more famous verses of the Bible: “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.” Yet the passage doesn’t stop there, and neither should our reflection upon today’s Gospel passage.
This passage is not only about God’s love for us. It’s also in turn about the love we must have for God. The Beloved Disciple’s commentary speaks to the demands that the Faith places upon the shoulders of a Christian disciple: “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
These “works” of which St. John speaks are not just religious works: works of stewardship that we do for our parish. The Beloved Disciple is speaking about the whole of a disciple’s life and all of that life’s thoughts, words, and actions. For God the Father claims the whole life of one who is baptized. Being a devout Catholic means that one’s whole life is held up to the light of the Gospel as taught by God’s Church on earth. Living the truth doesn’t mean spinning the truth, but submitting oneself to the truth with all its consequences, both earthly and eternal.