June 11, 2017
The Holy Trinity
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 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 Son of God.
The first verse (Jn 3:16) of the gospel is among the most familiar texts in the Christian Scriptures. One scripture scholar says that it is “a succinct summary of the whole Gospel…” (Reginald H. Fuller http://www.liturgy.slu.edu/TrinityA061117/theword_indepth.html)
John’s gospel was written much later than the other gospels. Many in John’s community would have been familiar with those gospels. Therefore, John’s gospel could begin with John the Baptist testifying to the greatness of Jesus and then move directly to Jesus’ call of the first disciples without describing any of Jesus’ early teaching or healing ministry. The second chapter of John’s gospel describes the wedding feast at Cana and Jesus expelling from the Temple those selling items to pilgrims desiring to offer a sacrifice. Both of these events would have disturbed the peoples’ understanding of their relationship to God.
The third chapter of John’s gospel begins with Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee of the day, coming to Jesus at night to gain a clearer understanding of Jesus and his teaching. Nicodemus asks Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:2-3) Jesus’ response to Nicodemus uses a word that means both again and above, so that when Jesus tells him that one must be born “again” in order to enter the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus is not sure what he means. It is in the context of this conversation with Nicodemus that the present text appears in John’s gospel.
The text states that God gave his only Son to the world so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. In John’s gospel “the world” is sometimes cast in a positive light, but more often it is cast in a negative light. The early Christians’ experience of the world changed drastically in those years when the texts that became the New Testament were being written. In the years right after the resurrection, the early Christians were part of the Jewish community. They were convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited messiah. They lived by that conviction, and they argued with their contemporaries, but they maintained their status in the community. Gentile conversion to Christianity, some Jewish Christians’ rejection of their new faith, Jews becoming resentful, and eventually excommunication from their synagogues led to a more hostile attitude toward the world. This shift in attitude is also reflected in the New Testament and elsewhere in John’s Gospel.
1. Complete this sentence. My parents so loved me that they gave me ….
2. Or if you are a parent yourself, complete this. I so loved my child that I gave her/him …
3. Can you contemplate what it might have been like for the Father to send the Son to be born into the world?
4. What comes to mind when you reflect on God’s desire for sending his Son to be born into the world?
5. Do you see the world primarily as something good, created by God, and a place that reveals the presence of God to you?
6. What has been your primary experience of the world and society?
7. Have there been periods in your life when it has been difficult to believe in the goodness of the world, creation, and the people around you? What happens to you when you choose to live out of that attitude?
8. How is your life different when you live out of a basic reverence, trust, and sense of goodness in others?
9. God so loved that world that … (How many times could you fill in this sentence?)
10. The text seems to invite us to contemplate and enter the heart of God. Do you ever pray to know how God feels about you?
11. What do you think it would be like to see yourself through the eyes and heart of God?
On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions for the upcoming Sunday are posted at the following link: http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx. You are invited to share your own reflection and comments with others at this website.
The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel.
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