Following Christ when it was dangerous to do so
Late last week, the Inquirer published an article on the 2018 Forbes List of Richest Persons. The article noted that only one percent of the richest people in the world accounted for 87 percent of the wealth generated in 2017.
Meanwhile, the poorest, representing the great majority, had no share at all of the wealth.
It is projected that Asia could be the region with the worst Gini Index. Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean regions have the greatest inequality, but reforms instituted over the last 10 years have reversed the trend.
According to the Forbes list, the 12 richest persons in the Philippines accounted for 1/5 of the country’s domestic economy. Again, nothing new, since almost 10 years ago we have trumpeted our remarkable economic growth, only to admit that it has yet to benefit the majority who are poor.
In today’s Gospel, Nicodemus visits Christ in the dark, for fear of being noticed by people from his elite class of Pharisees and an even more ultra-exclusive “club” of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus brings “a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pound weight” (John 19: 39), which only a wealthy man can afford, for the burial of Christ. Historical records show his family to be one of the most influential in Jerusalem.
The other reason scholars point to Nicodemus’ nocturnal visit to Christ is the belief that the best time to study the law and word of God is in the evening, when there are little distractions and interruptions.
Be it as it may, the striking element is, here’s a man of great privilege, wealth, power, and prestige, who comes to Christ—a rabbi whose popularity is high among the masses, but most certainly not one of the elite. Moreover, it is interesting to see Nicodemus’ transformation.
Nicodemus is mentioned three times in the Gospel of John. The first is the scene in the dark of night when he looks for Christ. Then, in the growing tension between Christ and the Pharisees and Sanhedrin, in which Christ is being “impeached,” Nicodemus comes to his defense.
“Surely our law does not condemn a man unless it first hears a statement of the case from him, and has first-hand information about what he is doing?” (John 7:51).
The third and final scene is at the foot of the Cross where, along with Joseph of Arimathea, another Pharisee, they take the dead body of Christ down from the Cross to bury him. It’s a bold move from a closet follower of Christ—or, at the very least, one who is fascinated by and attracted to what this rabbi stands for.
Nicodemus, who first came under cover in the dead of night, becomes bolder in his show of support for Christ. His final scene is at the Foot of the Cross after Christ’s followers hide or abandon him out of fear.
Here’s what Christ says to Nicodemus in their first meeting in today’s Gospel: “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.”
Nicodemus experiences the full power and grace of what Christ tells him, the power of the Cross, the Standard of Christ. As one commentary puts it, what Christ’s words in his lifetime could not do, his death accomplished in Nicodemus.
Nicodemus enters the path to eternal life as he openly believes in Christ and becomes one of his close followers at a time when it was most dangerous. One could say that Nicodemus, with Christ’s death on the Cross, truly believed Christ is the King and Savior.
This Lenten season, reflect on the journey of Nicodemus and pray that we also experience the grace of transformation. A rich man with stature, prestige and power seeks the truth and gains the courage to take risks.
Like Nicodemus, can we stand up to challenge inequality? The growing gap and the worsening inequality in the country and in the world need people willing to risk losing what they have for what the Standard of Christ asks of us.
This means checking the corruption and inefficiency of government institutions tasked to deliver basic services to the poor. This also means vigilance to stop efforts to perpetuate political dynasties.
Like Nicodemus, may our search for the truth remain not hidden in the dead of night, but be brought into the light of the Cross and Resurrection. –CONTRIBUTED
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