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
Jesus said to Nicodemus: "For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God's only Son. And the judgement is this: though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent his actions from being shown up; but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God.'
• John’s Gospel is like a fabric or cloth made of three different threads, but similar. 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 are 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 are 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 incidence or 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 perceive 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 persons 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, a numerous group of persons, 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 the 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 persons 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 responsible of the Jews who driving out the followers of Jesus from the Synagogue. This world persecutes and kills the communities causing tribulations to 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 persons who have the power, the leaders, both of the Empire and of the Synagogue. Lastly, all those who practice injustice using for this 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 in the depth of your heart, of your conscience?
• The more 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?
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)