Lectio Divina: John 3,16-21
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
You loved the world - that is us - so much
that You gave us Your only Son
to save us from ourselves
and to give us eternal life. Do not condemn us, Lord,
do not leave us to ourselves
and to our little schemes
but give us Your Son now to stay with us
and to make love and justice and peace
ever new realities among us,
Your people reborn in Your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 3:16-21
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 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-begotten Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
• John’s Gospel is like a fabric or cloth made of three different, but similar, threads. The three of them are so well combined with one another that, sometimes, it is not possible to understand when one goes from one thread to the other. (a) The first thread is the facts and words of Jesus during the thirty years, preserved by the eye witnesses who kept the things which Jesus did and taught. (b) The second thread is the facts of the life of the community. Because of their faith in Jesus and convinced of His presence among them, the communities enlightened their path with the words and the gestures of Jesus. This has some impact on the description of the facts. For example, the conflict of the communities with the Pharisees at the end of the first century marks the way of describing the conflicts of Jesus with the Pharisees. (c) The comments made by the Evangelist are the third thread. In some passages it is difficult to perceive when Jesus ceases to speak and the Evangelist begins to weave his own comments. The text of today’s Gospel, for example, is a beautiful and profound reflection of the Evangelist on the action of Jesus. The people can hardly notice the difference between when Jesus speaks and when the Evangelist does. In any case, both of them are Word of God.
• John 3:16: God loved the world. The word world is one of those words used more frequently in the Gospel of John: 78 times! It has several meanings. In the first place world may signify the earth, the space inhabited by human beings (Jn 11:9; 21:25) or also the created universe (Jn 17:5, 24) World can also mean the people who inhabit this earth, all of humanity (Jn 1:9; 3:16; 4:42; 6:14; 8:12). It can also mean a large group of people, as when we speak of “the whole world” (Jn 12:19; 14:27). Here, in our text the word world also has the sense of humanity, all human beings. God so loves humanity that He gave His only Son. The one who accepts that God reaches down to us in Jesus has already passed through death and has eternal life.
• John 3:17-19: The true sense of judgment. The image of God which appears in the three verses is that of a Father full of tenderness and not of a severe judgment. God sends His Son not to judge and condemn the world, but in order that the world may be saved through Him. The one who believes in Jesus and accepts Him as the revelation of God is not judged, because he is already accepted by God. And the one who does not believe in Jesus has already been judged. He excludes himself. And the Evangelist repeats what he had already said in the Prologue: many people do not want to accept Jesus, because His light reveals the evil which exists in them (cf. Jn 1:5, 10-11).
• John 3:20-21: To practice truth: In every human being, there is a divine seed, a trait of the Creator. Jesus, the revelation of the Father, is a response to this deepest desire of the human being. The one who wants to be faithful to what he has deepest in him accepts Jesus. It is difficult to find a broader ecumenical vision than the one expressed in these three verses in the Gospel of John.
• To complete the significance of the word world in the Fourth Gospel. Other times the word world means that part of humanity opposed to Jesus and to His message. There the word world assumes the meaning of “enemies” or “opponents” (Jn 7:4,7; 8:23, 26; 9:39; 12:25). This world which is contrary to the practice of the liberty of Jesus, is directed by the enemy, or Satan, also called the “prince of this world” (Jn 14:30; 16:11). It represents the Roman Empire and, at the same time, also those Jews responsible for driving out the followers of Jesus from the synagogue. This world persecutes and kills the communities, causing tribulations for the faithful (Jn 16:33). Jesus will liberate them, conquering the prince of this world (Jn 12:31). Therefore, world means a situation of injustice, of oppression, which generates hatred and persecution against the communities of the beloved disciple. The persecutors are those people who have the power, the leaders, both of the Empire and of the synagogue. Lastly, world means all those who practice injustice using the name of God (Jn 16:2). The hope which the Gospel gives to the persecuted communities is that Jesus is stronger than the world. This is why He says: “In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous, I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16:33)
4) Personal questions
• God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Has this truth penetrated the depth of your heart? Can we imagine sacrificing someone we love for a cause?
• The most ecumenical truth that exists is the life which God has given us and for which He has given His only Son. How do I live ecumenism in my daily life?
• It is clear at the end of this passage that “belief in His Son” does not just mean verbal acknowledgement. Believing also means believing the way of life He points us to by following every instruction and motivation He shares with us. Do we seek to know the wants, motivations, and actions He shares with us to live, and do we fulfill them?
5) Concluding Prayer
I will bless Yahweh at all times,
His praise continually on my lips.
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice. (Ps 34:1-2)