“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

John 3:21

Thursday, 18 March 2021

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus holds several valuable lessons for us. He is a religious leader, a Pharisee. The Pharisees claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretations of the law and dealt harshly with those who did not accept what they commanded. Their beliefs were the foundation for the liturgy and rituals of Rabbinic Judaism.

Religious leaders – and those who follow them – can be tempted to think that they have a knowledge of God or insights into God that others do not have or cannot have. They try to control the liturgy and rituals with the lens through which they see God. They claim a unique knowledge of what God desires and impose that on others, often laying burdens on their shoulders. In the extreme, they buy into a system that is self-serving rather than open to God. We may be tempted to think that religious leaders have somehow “mastered God” and know God’s mind.

Nicodemus realises that we cannot “master” God. He teaches us that religious leadership and courses in religion and theology do not give anyone the edge when it comes to God. For Nicodemus, God is much more than information, data, doctrines, rules and rituals. God is much more than a formula we simply need to follow.

God is much more than the rules we make and sometimes impose on others – God is first and foremost a relationship, a friend, a lover, a Lord and a Saviour. God patiently waits for us by day, and, as Nicodemus discovers, even by night! We must be cautious that we do not buy into a theological outlook that tricks us into thinking there is only one way of understanding God and that we can master that one way. Instead, we are invited to allow the Word of God to master us.

That’s key to the Lenten journey – allowing God to master us!

Have you ever imposed your unrealistic understanding of God on others? How are you allowing the Lord to master you this Lent?

Lord God,

Help me to see my life with new eyes, your eyes.

Teach me how to read the narrative of my own life so that I can see and rejoice in your work in my life.

Give me clarity of understanding this Lent.


Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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