At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Today we celebrate one of the “doctrine feats”, The Trinity. It should be noted that although it is classed as a “solemnity” in the Church’s calendar, the feast, and in fact all “doctrine feasts”, is subordinate to “event feasts”, which are main events of Jesus’ life. This is because the liturgy of the Church is always focusing on Jesus, who like us, lived in a particular historical circumstances and responded to particular challenges as he met them. Thus, we celebrate the birth and childhood of Jesus at Advent and Christmas; his teaching at Lent, his passion and death at the Sacred Triduum, h is resurrection culminating in the Ascension and the Pentecost at Easter.
Further, all these events are not ordinary events, but mysteries, as Jesus is now lives these events now in his followers and in the Church. We do not simply look at or admire these events, but celebrate them not only as stories of Jesus, but also recognize them from our own experience, so as to allow them to lead us to be more like Jesus.
Today’s feast is the result of the meditation on the life of Jesus over many centuries. As a result, the Trinity is now a doctrine of our faith. However, we can still meditate on Jesus today, to see how he faced life, how he related to others in his life.
At the beginning of today’s Gospel, Nicodemus came to visit Jesus at night. It is a concrete situation that Nicodemus is afraid of the Jews. From the conversation between him and Jesus, we can sense that Jesus is a free person. And his freedom is rooted in his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit and the fact that he is a second persona of the Trinity. Jesus invites not only Nicodemus to be a Trinitarian person, he also invites all of us to be a Trinitarian person, so that we can be as free as he does.
As it was said above that the focus of the liturgy of the Church is always on Jesus, our focus today is on Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus. In the dialogue, Jesus talks about his mission, the mission to bring eternal life and salvation to those who are lost. It sounds platitude but for us Christians it is related to us at present.
Eternal life is different from temporary life not only in the sense of our physical limitation that we will all die one day. Eternal life also means that it is the “life” that allows and enables us to survive all forms of death, should it be failure in relationship, failure in our work or career, the loss of a loved one, our defeat and humiliation, etc. We have all experienced the sense of being lost when we feel insecure, confusing and disorienting. And we all have the experience of being saved when we feel safe and sure after having found that we were back to the “right track” again.
How can we find the way after being drifted away for a long time? The answer is to follow Jesus, who is life-giving and saving. From his dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus shows that his mission is truly life-giving because the mission does not come from himself, but from the Father. Jesus is the only Son sent by the Father to world as a gift to save the world. Both the Father and the Son are non-possessive and both love selflessly. When we are in the difficult situation of losing a loved one, we can find comfort in the selfless love in the Father and in the Son.
Jesus told Nicodemus that God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world. If God condemned the world, then it could not reconcile with God’s love by sending his only Son to the world. How can we understand this saying? Truly, God is love. The sending of the only Son to the world is a challenge to the world. It is a challenge demanding our response to the love of God. The question demanded by the challenge is: Do we accept or reject Jesus? If we reject him, we have to accept the consequence of our choice and decision. That is condemnation. We condemn our own selves by rejecting Jesus.
In today’s Gospel, there is another dimension about condemnation. Condemnation does not belong to the responsibility of human beings. If we take up the responsibility to condemn, we inevitably condemn others not in the name of God but in our prejudices and narrow-mindedness. Take Nicodemus in today’s Gospel as an example. He is afraid to come to see Jesus in day time. However, Jesus did not condemn him. This is because Jesus sees Nicodemus as a free person created by God, who also received the Holy Spirit from God. Thus, Jesus feels easy to receive him at night. This freedom given to us by God enables us not to condemn other and also to be free from the bondage of other’s judgment against us.
In conclusion, we should be aware of God as Father so that we can never take control of Him. Further, we should know that in Jesus we are also sons and daughters of God so that we share His divinity. It ensures us that we are safe all the time. Lastly, we should be aware that the Holy Spirit is at work in others so that we respect the freedom of others and never condemn. Amen.