Gospel Reflection Mar 11 – Sr. Teresa + Operation Rice Bowl Week 4

Sunday, March 4

Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3: 13 – 21

Gospel:
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

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.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Reflection:
Since the 1970s during big sports events, you frequently see people holding up a sign with John 3:16 written on it. It is imprinted on the bottom of paper bags and pop cans, on billboards and t-shirts, car stickers, etc. It began as an evangelizing tool used mostly by born again Christians and quickly grew in popularity.

Today, we have it enfolded in our reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent. In the reading I am also drawn to the interplay between light and darkness. It is not a question of one or the other. Light and darkness are intertwined in our lives. There is good darkness and there is unhealthy darkness. In the past two months we have walked around in great darkness. The death of Payton Young, and the sudden death of a young student at Coffman High School that affected so many of our young people and made all of us draw our children closer. The deaths of Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering from Westerville Police Department and then another school shooting that took the lives of 17 people in Parkland, Florida. This darkness was over all of us. There is so much unhealthy darkness in our world today because of bigotry, poverty, exclusivity, unbridled violence and the list could go on and on and it draws all of us into it.

There are many who choose unhealthy darkness– the darkness of greed, the darkness of power, racism, sexism and other addictions. Then there is the very personal darkness of our own choosing and making. It is that darkness that attempts to keep the light of Christ from burning in our lives. It is the darkness that tries to snuff out the Light of Christ. It might be the excessive amount of time spent on social media. It might be the darkness of unattended tension in a marriage or relationship. It might be the darkness of indifference towards religion. It might be ???… (we can all name our own darkness).

In the midst of nearly suffocating darkness, whether it be societal, cultural or personal — it would be easy to slip into the deeper darkness of hopelessness or despair. So easy to just give up. So tempting to just ignore it, be numb to it or become a part or perpetrator of it. Yet, we have John 3:16 to anchor us in hope.

God loved the world.
God sent a great light into the world.

We are called to keep pushing back the darkness by our work for peace, by our ministry to the poor and marginalized, and by our efforts to be public voices for those who have been silenced. We are called to push back the darkness when we stand with the immigrant. We push back the darkness when we pray with the dying, visit the sick or write to our political leaders. We push back the darkness when we are serious about developing and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. We push back the darkness when we pray for self and others. We push back the darkness when we refuse to allow any brokenness or sin in us or in our world to be more powerful than the Light of Christ. We push back the darkness in so many ways – some big and some small; some acknowledged and some never noticed. Walking in the Light of Christ (even when it seems but a flickering flame) is a deliberate choice. It is a choice we are called to make each day.

God so loved the world that God sent his son.
His son sends us to be witnesses of God’s love,
to be bearers of the light that the darkness cannot overcome.

Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

OPERATION RICE BOWL STORIES OF HOPE: WEEK 4

Call to Family, Community and Participation
Catholic social teaching inspires and guides how we are to live and work in the world. In this principle, Call to Family, Community and Participation, we remember that human beings are social by nature-we need each other. We, like the early disciples, are called to come together and grow as a community-whether that community is in our classroom, workplace or family.

Encounter Andrise
“Education is the foundation of everything,” says Andrise, who’s been a first-grade teacher at a small Catholic school for 11 years. It’s the same school she attended from first through sixth grade, in the community she calls home in northern Haiti.

Andrise says the opportunities at Notre Dame set the course for her life. But a lot has changed since she was a student. New teaching techniques and resources are changing how students learn-and how teachers teach. “We use poems, dances, songs-all sorts of activities to help the students improve their literacy,” she says.

And Catholic Relief Services-working with the Catholic Education Commission in Haiti-is leading the way. Every student receives a new workbook to practice their reading and writing. This is a big change from before, when students had to copy notes from the board. “Now, all the students are able to learn at the same time,” Andrise says. And she benefits too-from ongoing teacher training. Last year, the parish priest named her Teacher of the Year.

The new techniques are working: Andrise’s classroom is a high-energy place, and the students love school-and her. “They call me ‘my mother,’ and I call them ‘my son, my daughter,” she says. “They’ve already promised that next year, when they’re in second grade, they’ll take time out of their recess to come and visit me.” For a teacher like Andrise, seeing the children grow not just as students, but as people, is the reason she goes to work each day.