“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”

Today, John gives us maybe the most famous scripture reference of modern times, John 3:16 (part of Jn 3:14-21): “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.”  Today’s reading is provided by John as a commentary, starting with these words, at the conclusion of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who comes to see Jesus’ clandestinely at night.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be “born from above” (3:3), that is, “born of water and Spirit” (3:5)  to enter the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ final words to the Jewish ruler are: “the Son of Man [must] be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (vv. 14-15).  A powerful message and a wonderful introduction to the gospel for those not familiar with it.  But, unfortunately, the famous 3:16 has been taken in isolation by some.  The closing section of this reading is an important corrective to an attitude of: Just believe and be saved — actions are unimportant.  It has been touched on before in these posts that believing means more than a simple assent.  Believing in the Word means reading all the words of the Bible and appreciating their content and unity.  In this case (in particular in the words at top) John tells us quickly that our lives must conform to our beliefs and that the way we act truly indicates where our hearts lie.  Jesus, time and time again, tells us what we need to do to be a true disciple (the Sermon on the Mount [Mt 5-7] is a good starting point).  While it is true that, later in the New Testament, “works of the law” (maybe better, “works of Torah”) are dismissed as required for eternal life (see Rom 2-3, esp. 3:28), nowhere in scripture are good works considered unnecessary.  Let us always pray and work to have our beliefs and our actions conform for the glory of God and for the evangelization of others.

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