Go beyond Nicodemus 4th Sunday in Lent 2018

Friends, faith in God and Christianity are questioned today perhaps more than any other time in history. Today, it is not obvious to many people that there are moral truths as it was before. Christ's person and work are questioned everywhere in the world. Last Thursday I received a phone call from a young woman who wants to leave the Church. She asked how she could go about this. After I had explained to her the procedure, I asked her if I could ask one or two questions. She obliged. Then I asked her why she wanted to leave the Church. She replied that she no longer believes in God. She says she is gay and has children and her faith does not agree with the faith of the Church. Tragically, not only that she wants to leave the Church but also, she no longer believes in God. This is a conscious decision. It's like walking in Satan's footsteps: non serviam (I will not serve). It is --- and perhaps even confusing and irreconcilable that humans have not changed their nature since creation. Our ancestors, the first human persons, chose to disobey God's guidance. They wanted to do what they themselves thought was right (Gen. 3: 1-6, 22-24). This became the beginning of positivism, which means that what is decided by a human being is correct. The evil that is happening in the world today is also the consequences of their selfish choices. Each of us faces a choice every day, choosing the word of God or rejecting God's word. The most unreasonable thing in life is not to believe in God, as heaven and earth proclaim his glory.

The Book of Chronicle is a summary of the history of Israel. Although it begins with Adam and covers the same period as the Genesis through the Second Book of Kings, the emphasis is on David and the Levites. Ezra and Nehemiah are both a continuation of the same writer around 400 BC. The last three kings were unfaithful to God. The priests were not better. Gentile ways of life were allowed in Jerusalem and even in the temple. God departed the temple and therefore it became empty- Ichabod, the shekinah glory left the temple. The people of Israel lived in great infidelity with God. They lived like the Gentiles and unclean temple. Nevertheless, with compassion looked at his people. God sent his messengers to them. The people of God refused to listen to them, they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and killed his prophets. As a punishment for infidelity, Babylon came and destroyed the whole country and took the people as prisoners of war (597-787 BC). The people were in Babylon for 70 years. The prophet Jeremiah foretold this (Jer. 25:11, 29:10).

Israel's infidelity from Adam to Noah has far-reaching consequences. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and showed an apparent lack of respect for him. Through this, they rejected God and chose to become independent, which would have catastrophic consequences. They ate of the fruit of the tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which represented God's right to determine what is right and wrong. God's original intention was that people would live forever and God always performs their intentions (Isaiah 55:11). It was not meant to die people. Adam and Eve's choice to go against the word of God was a sin committed, which in turn led to death (Rom 5:12). Death came into the world through their disobedience to God. Adam and Eve's sin had far-reaching consequences. They lost the opportunity to live forever. It also had consequences for others - it was inherited to all their descendants. Today we live in the same situation. Most Christians live just like non-Christian atheists, agnostics, sceptics who say as the fool who says in his heart, God is not there (see Ps 11, 53). We live like those who do not know Christ and experience His deliverance. In our act, speech, the way to dress, dance, relation to opponents and enemies there is nothing different from those who, like Adam and Eve, said Non Serviam to God. What applies to nations also applies to individuals. As God keeps in the history of the nation, he also keeps in the history of the individual. God can allow trials for nations as well as individuals. Now we do not see the whole picture but at the end of the life we ​​will see the whole and understand that God has been with us from the beginning to the end and leads the way of the world and our lives.

The apostle Paul asks, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? " Romans 7:14). God has sent His Son as the Saviour of the World (1 John 4:14). God has already decided to lift the punishment for eternal death. How? God sent His Beloved Son from Heaven to be born as a human being. With his death on the cross, Christ repurchased what Adam and Eve had lost for themselves and their descendants. This made it possible for one who believes in Christ to have eternal life (Romans 3: 23-24; 1 John 2: 2). “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5: 6-8). Now all who die in Adam will also be made alive in Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22). The word of God is faithful and accomplishes what it promises (Rev 21: 5). We must show faith in Jesus for eternal life. It is important that our words and actions conform to our faith in Jesus. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2: 4-10).

The Lenten time ends with the drama "triumph of failure" at Calvary. On Good Friday, God died in the most tragic and shameful way. He did this, so we can have life. Therefore, it is important to constantly remind us of God's unconditional love that made him send his only son. The song of praise before the gospel this Sunday reads: "So God loves the world that He gave His Only Son, that those who believe in Him will have eternal life" (John 3:16). God has not created us so that our life ends in the grave. Yes, from the beginning God planned life beyond the grave for all who hoped in him. Apostle Paul says today in the letter to the Ephesians (teaching the Trinity and the different roles of the divine persons in salvation) that God has done this based on his unlimited and unconditional love for us. Think of those who do not have this faith. Their lives are hopeless, blind and end in the grave, the same as living in the dark deprived of God's presence, which is what we refer to as hell fire.

The Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the World today begins with joy and hope, “Gaudium et Spes." Our joy and hope are in the name of the Lord. The Church this Sunday reminds us of our duty and our privilege of living in joy and hope. Whatever happens and however the world may look, we are won by the liberating power of the gospel. It is like wings carrying us forward. Amid the sorrow and darkness of the world, it is not fear that leads the Christians but faith in God who is faithful. In this context, we understand what is said in today's entrance antiphon: "Joy Jerusalem, and rejoice in her, all you who fall in love with her; sing out loud with her, all you who have taken care of her ... "(See Isaiah 66: 10-11). I'm fond of Jesus and everything he means for my life. I'm glad to know that I have Jesus in my life. In all the situations of life, God has given me blessed consolation. Jesus has shown me that I belong to him. Hardly, can I find words to express my joy in knowing that God loves me.

John tells of Nicodemus, (John 3: 14-21) one of the leading Jews and a rich man who came to Jesus during the night. He had conversation with Jesus and listened half-heartedly to the words of Jesus. He was probably afraid to be discovered with Jesus and what the people would say about him. He defended Jesus when his colleagues wanted to arrest Jesus. He also helped give him a worthy funeral. John tells us that Nicodemus came with a mixture of myrrh and aloe, about thirty kilograms. But that was how far he could go. He stayed with sweet feelings as Christ's sympathizer. Why did he not give his life all the way to Jesus? What prevented him? What would the world say if he was associated with Jesus? How much more would it cost to become his disciple? Nicodemus risked his eternal life because of the respect he had for his earthly life. The judgment is that when the light entered the world, the people loved the darkness more than the light, because their deeds were evil.

Our world has become a place to be accepted, one must become politically correct. Success in the world's sense depends on how much you adapt to this world and its values. This has probably become one of the most important instruments that the ruler of this world uses to lead people away from God. A prophet's mission has become a painful call in our day. To place politically correct opinion and thought above God's word is idolatry. This must be combated both in individuals and in our Church and in our society. The Apostle Paul understood very well that our world portends a danger that removes us from a divine life. Therefore, he warns: Do not adapt to this world, but let's be transformed by renewing our thoughts. Repentance means changing mindset, how we reason and see things. Without this happening in our lives, we cannot determine what is the will of God, what is good, pleases him and is perfect (Romans 12: 1-2). For this to happen in us, our inner eye needs to receive the light of God so that we can see what hope he has called us to (Ephesians 1: 17-18). So long as we think and act in the world, we will be far from God. Since we forget that God is not in our life to help fulfil our vision but to help us fulfil his vision for us.

There are many of us who would like to give all to Jesus, but we are afraid of losing the respect and contact of others. Among these may be the one who does not defend their faith in the Lord when it is attacked or mocked at work or in public places. We just stand and give silent support to those who deny Jesus. These and others may be like Nicodemus who for fear of losing the friendship and acceptance of others are prepared to throw away their eternal joy. Nicodemus thought maybe that by helping to bury Jesus, he compensated for his half-hearted trust in Jesus. There are many former Christians who are now humanists by helping their fellow human beings, donate money to aid organizations or perhaps go on humanitarian missions abroad, while denying Jesus, which is essential in religion and thus the core of charity actions. This is a false imitation of religion. God is an essential part of religion. It's useless to help fellow humans if we remove God's image in her.

In silence, many Christians struggle with doubts and despair. God and his existence have never been questioned to the same extent as today. When we face major trials, adversities or failures such as severe illnesses or major loss of loved ones or loss of supply, doubts arise especially if we asked for the matter. C. S. Lewis gives us examples of this in his life, as he depicts in his book: "Notes during days of sorrow". When his wife, Joy died in cancer, the loss was even overwhelming than when his mother passed away in the same disease many years earlier. He began questioning the meaning of life and wrote straight from the heart. He has questions, doubts, complains and struggles that also give new perspectives. In the book " Surprised by Joy", C. S. Lewis writes about his transition from childhood Christian faith to atheism and later in mature age back to Christianity. There is no contradiction between the joy of the gospel and the cross. Grace reaches its full depth only when it is transformed is the mystery of the cross.

As our world comes to an end, we will see it in multi-coloured and in stages, what human history has weived, we will clearly discover God's colours in all event. Even people who believe they are ruling this world without God's intervention will discover who inspired them to act as they did. The history of Christianity is no different. God's chosen people have often been unfaithful to him. God allows their enemies to have their way. Nero, Caligula and Diocletian sent more martyrs to heaven than the Apostle Paul, those who might not have come into heaven otherwise. What is true for nations is also true of individuals. God works in our lives in many ways that we do not understand. God works for best for those who trust in Him. By grace we are saved by faith, not by ourselves. "He who approaches God must believe that he is, and he rewards the one who sincerely seeks him" (Heb 11: 6). We are the temple of God (1 Cor 3: 9). At the end, we will see that even adversities that meet us in life were blessings in disguise. At the end of the world's history, which seems to be chaos, we will discover God's hands leading up to its completion.

Now it is up to everyone to choose to stay home or go away to a foreign country. Such a country seems to provide joy, but, it’s just a shadow of joy. Therefore, it is an illusion when someone leaves the Mother Church to seek happiness, peace, power, authority, honour and success elsewhere. Everything else can give a sense of satisfaction but, in fact, cannot give a perfect life. Therefore, as Catholics, we will rejoice in the Lord that God finds us worthy to share the life of his Son with us. This becomes real when a person has a personal meeting with God. I am pleased to have accepted Christ with all my heart, my mind, my soul and my understanding. Have you done the same or do you want to remain with Nicodemus as sympathizer? Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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