GOSPEL | JOHN 3:16-21
16 “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. 17 “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. 18 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. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
“‘And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world…'” (3:19)
The light is our salvation, but it is also our judgment. In Lent, we intently – if squeamishly – attend to our mortification, the part of the Christian life wherein we lay down our sinful, fallen habits. Reflecting on baptism is a beautiful way into this uncomfortable, uncomely act: in the waters of baptism, we are cleansed from the stain of sin upon us. In going down, we are put to death; in coming up, we are brought to new life.
This Lenten journey started with an invitation: “Come and see” (John 1:39). What we find is not always pleasant or affirming. The light is startling and disorienting. However, the light is also safe and welcoming. After all, John begins his Gospel by declaring that Jesus Christ is “The true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9), and Jesus tells us today that he did not come “into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
Lent can drag on. 40 days is a long time. The repetition of these themes – suffering, death, temptation, sacrifice – can become harrowing, and we’re ready for Holy Week well before Palm Sunday. And again we hear, “Come.” When I’m tempted to say, “My old self isn’t so bad,” or, even worse, “My sins are not nearly as bad as theirs,” Jesus speaks clearly into the darkness of night and says, “Come.”