words i meditated on, part I

I have finally gotten my act together and have begun to read more frequently, more carefully, and more meditatively, the Sacred Scriptures (via the RSV CE – I look forward to the day I can read them in Hebrew and Greek). My approach is simple: work straight through whatever book of the Book my fancy (or the Spirit) leads me to. Since I will be marking down lines that particularly strike me and recording my own personal reflections on the Scriptures anyways, I decided to share them with you here on the weblog. Please, if you are moved, feel free to comment on my (quite naive and unexperienced) interpretations of the Scriptures. (I’m thinking of reading some of the Fathers’ commentaries when I get the time, just to get a good laugh by comparing my feeble attempts with theirs!) I’ll also note that whatever good comes from these reflections is likely from the influence of HH BVI’s homilies or those of my spiritual “mentors” (one might say fathers) Fr. Casey Beaumier, SJ and Fr. Chris Collins, SJ, from their homilizing at the 10pm daily Mass at BC. St. Ignatius might have something to do with this as well.

My first attempt is the Gospel of John. For this particularly famous Gospel, I am simply reading one story or parable or what have you per day. I began the practice on Sunday. Today I read about the encounter of Nicodemus, the Pharisee, with Jesus (Jn 3:1-21).

What first struck me about this passage was Nicodemus himself. Not only was Nicodemus a Pharisee, he was a “ruler of the Jews.” (1). In other words, he was a man of high social standing, and one who, politically and socially speaking, should have been against Jesus, who in due time claimed to be God (“I am”). Yet Nicodemus believed in Jesus. “We” – whether Nicodemus is using the royal ‘we’ or is referring to many of the Pharisees, I am unsure of – “know that you are a teacher come from God” (2). Of course, this is not quite a confession of faith in His Divine Sonship. All of the patriarchs and prophets could be considered teachers come from God, that is, under the inspiration of God. In any case, Nicodemus, and potentially a large number of the very group famous for opposing Jesus, in some way believed in Him, despite what society at large pressured them to do. Imagine this possible quite powerful man, rich in property and influence, coming to visit Jesus “by night” (2)! And yet how many people in our own day are like Nicodemus – desirous of our Lord’s company, yet afraid to act on that desire because of fear of what other people will think.

The other part of this passage that especially stuck out to me is Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus. Here it is Nicodemus’ lack of understanding that stands out to me. Not that it’s entirely hard to blame him – he doesn’t know just Whom he is dealing with. The dialogue is, as has been commented on by others, almost comical. Nicodemus asks Jesus, in response to His stress that one must be born again to inherit eternal life, “Can [a man] enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (4) After another attempt at explaining, Nicodemus nearly gives up and, mystified and perhaps a little scandalized, asks simply, “How can this be?” (9) Again, it is difficult to blame Nicodemus for failing to understand Jesus’ codified parables and lofty words. And we should not condemn Nicodemus, just as our Lord refrains from doing so – not, of course, without guiding him a little closer towards understanding and healthily reprimanding him for failing to understand in the past. If one reads Jesus’ responses to Nicodemus, one can see that He is not angrily reprimanding Nicodemus for his hardheadedness, but, likely out of His ardent desire to have His brothers and sisters by adoption understand Himself, exhorting Nicodemus and gently disciplining him so that he may better understand just Who He is. In response to Nicodemus’ first question, Jesus does not yell at him, but says, with what must have been sincere concern, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew'” (7). It is not with rage but with loving concern for both Nicodemus and the people he is supposed to be teaching and guiding that Jesus asks him the rhetorical question, “Are you a teacher of Israel?” (10) I imagine our Lord must ask similar questions with His priests quite often. Although He is not satisfied with Nicodemus’, nor His priests’, ignorance, yet he also does not outright condemn them, but reprimands them and lovingly pushes them to greater understanding, under His own lead and guidance.

It’s hard to put what I’ve gleaned from the Scriptures into words. I hope that this first attempt has not put forth any scandalous suggestions, and that in the future my writing may become more clear!

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