Sunday, March 26, 2006
Being Open  

It is a cliche to say that one must be open. When it comes to "being open", I think that there are two important questions. First, how is one allowing oneself to be open, and second, to what is one being open. It seems that Jesus is very concerned about whether the hearts of His listeners are open to Him. In the Gospel of Mark, St. Mark indicates on one occasion that because the people lacked faith in Jesus, he was constrained from performing miracles. The lack of openness to Jesus resulted in the people receiving less of Jesus.

In the Gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday in Lent, we hear part of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council who was curious enough about Jesus that he paid Him a visit, albeit at night. Although open to Jesus, he was fearful of associating himself openly with Jesus. However, even this timid curiosity is all the opening which Jesus needed to touch his heart.

Jesus explained to him the importance believing in Him.
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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 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 faith of which Jesus speaks is a gift which we receive from God. As Benedict XVI recently stated
Faith, ultimately, is a gift. Consequently, the first condition is to let ourselves be given something, not to be self-sufficient or do everything by ourselves -- because we cannot -- but to open ourselves in the awareness that the Lord truly gives.

It seems to me that this gesture of openness is also the first gesture of prayer: being open to the Lord's presence and to his gift. This is also the first step in receiving something that we do not have, that we cannot have with the intention of acquiring it all on our own.

We must make this gesture of openness, of prayer -- give me faith, Lord! -- with our whole being. We must enter into this willingness to accept the gift and let ourselves, our thoughts, our affections and our will, be completely immersed in this gift.

Here, I think it is very important to stress one essential point: No one believes purely on his own. We always believe in and with the Church. The Creed is always a shared act, it means letting ourselves be incorporated into a communion of progress, life, words and thought.

We do not "have" faith, in the sense that it is primarily God who gives it to us. Nor do we "have" it either, in the sense that it must not be invented by us. We must let ourselves fall, so to speak, into the communion of faith, of the Church. Believing is in itself a Catholic act. It is participation in this great certainty, which is present in the Church as a living subject. Source
Nicodemus demonstrated his willingness to be open to Jesus by meeting with Him. We can only surmise that he was also open to the message which Jesus presented. Indeed, it seems that he was open to Jesus Himself because the Gospel of John makes it clear that Nicodemus did not join in the council's condemnation of Jesus. In addition, the man who previously was afraid to openly identify himself with Jesus later is willing to publicly connect himself with Jesus by assisting Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus. It would have been a scandal for a member of the council to be involved in the burial of someone who was crucified. Yet when all of the disciples have fled, Nicodemus along with Joseph of Arimathea is there to perform this work of mercy. Finally, because this was a private audience with Jesus, we can surmise that Nicodemus must have later shared with the early Christians the details of what Jesus shared with him that night.

All of these factors seem to indicate that Nicodemus took to heart what our Lord told him that night. He let his heart be open to Jesus by coming to Him to listen to what Jesus had to say. Then he was open to the Gospel by accepting the gift that Jesus gave him. He received the Good News and let it transform him into a believer in the Son of God who came to give eternal life to all who will believe in Him.

Posted by David at 5:56 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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